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Susan Granger's review of 'The Raven'

Published 2:02 pm, Friday, May 4, 2012
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Desperately trying to transform writer Edgar Allen Poe into an American version of Sherlock Holmes, this historical fantasy revolves around a macabre hunt for a shadowy serial killer.

Set on the cobbled streets of Baltimore in 1849, it begins as unappreciated, penniless Poe (goateed John Cusack) begs his newspaper editor (Kevin McNally) to publish more of his poetry, only to be rebuffed and told that the public far prefers the sensationalism of his macabre stories. That coincides with a bewildering police case in which two women are found dead in room in which the door and windows are locked. Discovering a window with a hidden spring, Police Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) recalls a similar device in Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," leading him to suspect that mercurial, misanthropic Poe might be the killer, particularly when the next victim is Poe's rival, the critic Griswold (John Warnaby). But when other clues point -- not to Poe -- but to someone familiar with his writing, Fields enlists Poe's help in tracking down the killer when the beautiful, blonde heiress Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), whom Poe wants to marry, is kidnapped from a costume ball hosted by her cantankerous father, Col. Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson), who loathes Poe. Tenaciously following grisly clues planted on more ghoulish corpses, evoking "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Mask of the Red Death," "The Premature Burial" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," among others, they eventually track down the deranged, demented murderer.

The somber, sinister, often incoherent script by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare is filled with anachronistic dialogue and preposterous inaccuracies, including the fact that the term "serial killer" wasn't devised until nearly 130 years later. Shot in Serbia and Hungary and feverishly directed by James McTeigue ("V for Vendetta"), it's a bizarrely boring whodunit, despite wild-eyed John Cusack's caustic histrionics. If you're a mystery aficionado, I'd recommend renting Roger Corman's eight, low-budget, nightmarish Edgar Allen Poe adaptations (1960-1964).

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Raven" is a ridiculous, tedious 3 --"nevermore"!