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.
Adapted from John Green’s 2012 bestselling novel of the same name, The Fault in our Stars - a formulaic but engagingly honest story of star-crossed lovers brought together by a mutual pain - will sadden, enrich and perhaps even comfort, many of those who come across its path.
The story is centred on the sixteen year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Woodley); a girl who has been battling with terminal thyroid cancer since the age of thirteen. After being one of the few to respond to an experimental drug treatment, her condition is now stable, though the side effects have weakened her lungs and she is now constantly attached to a portable oxygen tank.
Hazel has pretty much accepted the fact that her days are numbered but her parents, Frannie (Dern) and Michael (Trammell), are increasingly concerned for her emotional well-being and urge her to join a cancer support group for young cancer patients like herself; not wanting to stress her parents any further, Hazel soon agrees to go.
It’s there that she first meets Augustus Waters (Elgort); an optimistic osteosarcoma survivor who lost part of his leg due to the illness. He is now living cancer-free and only comes to the meetings to support his best-bud, Isaac (Wolff). Instantly intrigued by each other, Hazel and Augustus strike up a flirty friendship but Hazel - someone who views herself as a grenade and is set on protecting those around her from the blast when that day eventually comes - is reluctant to let Augustus in. But as their relationship slowly begins to inch towards romance, she soon sees that she really doesn’t have much say in the matter.
Woodley is absolutely enigmatic as the story’s cancer-stricken heroine and ends up infusing a great amount of likeability and authenticity into the role of a young girl asked to face her destiny much too soon, while Elgort shines as the witty and the incredibly charming young man who refuses to let the cruelty of life dampen his spirits.
The Fault in Our Stars is only the second feature-film for director Josh Boone – see 2012’s Stuck in Love - however, he executes the tricky adaptation like a veteran. Scripted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Webert, the gravity of the material is handled wonderfully and there is a heavy dose of sincerity, humour and most important of all, heart, injected into the story’s sombre themes.
On the downside, its teenage-romance premise does get a little too cutesy in parts and the subplot, which involves a trip to Amsterdam, feels a little underdeveloped. Nevertheless, it’s the easy chemistry between its protagonists and its earnest approach makes The Fault in Our Stars a success and an ultimate real tear-jerker that won’t leave a dry eye in the house.
Australian-born filmmaker, James Wan – of Saw and Insidious fame – is back, painting his latest horror-project with a truly unnerving atmosphere. Carried with an air of simplicity and austerity, this latest supernatural, haunted-house tale struts on relatively familiar ground, but still has the desired effect.
Set in the early 70’s and supposedly based on actual events, The Conjuring’s focus lies with two paranormal investigators, Ed Warren (Wilson) and wife Lorraine (Farmiga). The spiritual couple have devoted their lives to investigating a variety of supernatural incidents. Regularly holding seminars across the country, Ed and Lorraine are keen to offer insight and knowledge into the paranormal world.
The duo is soon called upon for help by the Perron family as things go from bad to worse in their old, countryside farmhouse in Rhode Island. Ever since moving in, the family of seven – mother Carolyn (Taylor), father Roger (Livingstone) and their five daughters – have experienced spooky, inexplicable happenings around the house. Believing in logical explanations, the family’s scepticism is soon silenced when they discover that whatever has latched onto their new home is evil beyond their imagination and unwilling to let go.
Paced beautifully, The Conjuring’s strongpoint lies with its electrifying and chilling atmosphere which is heavily influenced by the horror films of the 70’s; Wan keeps everything from the movie’s colouring to the costume design exceptionally authentic.
Contributing to the film’s realism is the superb cast; Taylor, one of the most underrated actresses of today, comes out as the shining star of the film. Her commitment to the role is undeniable and she manages to dish-up a number of incredibly unsettling scenes. Farmiga is equally as captivating, as is Wilson; the duo skilfully captures the essence of a supernatural-seeking couple. Unfortunately for Livingston – better known as ‘Burger’ from Sex and the City – feels like the oddball of the group. All five children play on the innocence of their characters nicely, which was of course beneficial to the spook-factor.
While it may not be the horror-masterpiece that the hype suggested, The Conjuring still manages to ignite and carry perfect pacing and atmosphere. Extremely moody and awfully chilling, The Conjuring unleashes old-fashioned scares with effortless style; a quality lacking in the majority of horror films released over 2013.