Sign in using your account with
The Raven: Suspense-less Thriller Based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Work
A deranged groupie has taken Edgar Allen Poe’s (Cusack) literature a little bit too literally. He goes on a killing spree using different murders from Poe’s stories as inspiration, where each murder contains a clue to the next. The murderer starts improvising though and kidnaps Poe’s girlfriend, Emily (Eve), to draw the author closer in; taunting him. The murderer orders Poe to write a story and publish it in the newspaper where he works, based on the murderous actions. In the story, Poe both immortalizes the killer and shapes his future actions.
This is a film with a decent concept that just doesn’t work out. Making a murder-mystery out of bits of Poe’s literary tales could have been pretty interesting, but it basically boils down to us hopping from one gruesome murder to the next. There isn’t even much connecting one murder with the next. Also, by having Poe translate the murderer’s escapades into fiction the film has a very strong going-through-the-motions vibe, killing any sense of suspense or tension.
The characters aren’t much better either. Cusack’s character of Poe is a depressed alcoholic with a raging ego and an insufferable sense of superiority – basically a cliché of an artist. Eve’s character Emily is pretty and, unfortunately, doesn’t get much of a chance to transcend that trait seeing as she’s stuck in a box for most of the film. Also, Poe is at least double her age and is probably old enough to be her father. Their relationship is kind of creepy and you wouldn’t be wrong in completely empathizing with Emily’s father who does his best to keep them away from each other. Luke Evans plays Detective Fields, the officer in charge of the investigation and the man who first makes the connection between the murders and Poe’s stories. He does a decent job not least because he isn’t saddled with the ‘artistic,’ heavy-on-the-synonyms dialogue that Cusack has to deal with.
At the very least, the film looks good even though it’s not as extravagant as other period films. It has a very Gothic feel with its bleak palette and reams of fog unfurling everywhere, which does manage to give the film a vaguely foreboding feel. The murder scenes are pretty gory, the costumes look good and are sufficiently showcased in the scene of a ball.
The film is disappointing on two levels: it squandered a cool concept and it ended up a completely by-the-numbers thriller.
Following in the footsteps of the 2014 teen- tear-jerker, The Fault in Our Stars, R.J Cutler’s onscreen adaptation of yet another best-selling young-adult novel explores the perils of young love in the terribly formulaic and melodramatic, If I Stay.
The story is centred on Mia (Moretz); a shy high-school junior who dreams of one day becoming a great concert cellist. Her super-cool, rock-loving parents, Kat (Enos) and Denny (Leonard), are very supportive of her dreams; however, Mia – who constantly doubts her own talent – is not so sure that she will be able to make the cut when she auditions for the Julliard School of Music in New York.
As Mia awaits the news that will determine her future, her relationship with Adam (Blackley), the lead singer of a local rock band, is not doing so well, as his career and schedule begins to take him away from the relationship. Uncertain what her future holds, Mia’s world is soon turned upside down when she and her family are involved in a horrifying car accident that leaves both her parents dead, her younger brother Teddy (Davies) fighting for his life and Mia in a coma.
Stuck in between the two worlds, Mia begins to undergo a lengthy out-of-body experience and soon finds herself examining and questioning her entire life – through a series of flashbacks – and quickly comes to the realisation that it is up to her whether to let go and walk towards the light – literally – or wake up and deal with the fact that her life, as she knew it, will be forever changed.
Scripted by Shauna Cross, If I Stay does very little to break away from the usual patterns of young-adult novel adaptations and once again lends its entire focus on the workings of a romance between two young teens under the burdens of life and big decisions. Weighty subjects are thrown around, but never fully explored and the gaps in the logic – mostly to do with the supernatural part of the tale – are vast and, frankly, a little baffling.
Nevertheless, Moretz proves to be a reliable and capable lead, though the chemistry shared between her and Blackley doesn’t really resonate. As her extra-hip parents, Enos and Leonard, came off as a little forced – and a little hard to take seriously – while Keach, playing Mia’s loving grandfather, is the only one who brings a bit of sincerity to his role.
Told mostly through flashbacks, If I Stay is paced well and there is certain lightness to its step. However, it’s all a little bit too cutesy to take seriously.
Steering clear of the found-footage craze, Deliver Us From Evil - inspired by the real-life events of retired NYPD investigator-turned demonologist, Ralph Sarchie – strikes the right type of mood and benefits from a group of dedicated actors who bring this otherwise predictable and conventional story to life.
Set in New York City, Deliver Us From Evil is centred around NYPD Sgt. Ralph Sarchie (Bana); a dedicated man of the law who is known for his acute radar for bad vibes. Appointed to a special division, Sarchie spends most of his days away from home – away from wife, Jen (Munn), and daughter, Christina (Wilson) – and spends his time patrolling some of the roughest parts of the City, along with his knife-loving partner, Butler (McHale).
His sixth-sense for the supernatural soon leads them to a string of domestic abuse cases, in which children are involved in each. None of it makes sense, but Sarchie and Butler soon discover that all of the cases are linked to three recently dishonoured marines - Jimmy (Coy), Mick Santino (Harris) and Lt. Griggs (Johnsen) - who have just returned from Iraq.
Soon, Sarchie befriends mysterious Catholic priest, Mendoza (Ramirez); a booze-loving Christian who has spent his life chasing demons and performing exorcisms. Mendoza believes there’s something bigger at play. As a non-believer, Sarchie has a hard-time buying into the premise, but his mind soon starts to change when he pairs up with Mendoza in order to find and unlock the source of the mystery before further evil can spread.
It’s always refreshing to see a horror film free of the found-footage approach. Scott Derrickson – see The Exorcism of Emily Rose – manages to do just fine without the overly-used tactic and creates a satisfyingly eerie and inviting atmosphere.
But while there’s plenty of blood and gore, the scares are surprisingly few and far between. Additionally, the writing, which tries hard to build a strong case behind its demonic mythology, is relatively simple - even though it tries its best to come across as intricate and complex.
Luckily, Bana is there to pick up the pieces as the persuasive and relatively compelling cop who, despite his strong denial of demons and evil spirits, is eventually forced to look at the world with a new set of eyes. As Sarchie’s loyal sidekick, McHale is the source of the movie’s subtle comic relief while Mendoza shines as the eccentric priest.
All things considered, Deliver Us From Evil is a satisfying horror. The scare-o-meter is relatively low but that doesn’t mean the experience is any less frightening.