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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.
As far as remakes are concerned, Paul Feig’s reboot of the 1984 supernatural comedy classic, Ghostbusters, is one of the better ones out there. Arriving twenty-seven years after the release of the first sequel, the Bridesmaids director has been given the honours of reintroducing the story to the modern audiences of today. The result? An entertaining and an admittedly funny reboot which, although nowhere near as spunky as the original, still has its own charms to lean back on.
The story begins with Dr. Erin Gilbert (Wiig); a respected physics professor who is only days away from receiving tenure at the Colombia University. However, she is soon pulled back into her previous life as a paranormal investigator when her old friend Aby Yates (McCarthy), who has decided to re-publish the book about ghosts they wrote together many years ago without her permission, returns to her life.
Worried what the release of the book might do to her academic career, Erin decides to confront Abby. However, she soon finds herself joining her old friend - and Abby’s new research partner, Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) - on a paranormal investigation at a reportedly haunted-house, during which they experience their first ghost-sighting.
Unfortunately, their encounter is labelled as a publicity stunt, forcing the three ladies - who soon welcome MTA employee, Patty Tolan (Jones) into their team - to create a plan of capturing ghosts as proof they exist. Meanwhile, creepy hotel janitor, Rowan (Casey) has been busy planting devices around NYC with the intention of opening the portal between the living and the dead.
Those who were not exactly on board with the idea of the all-female remake might not be completely taken in by Paul Feig’s latest attempt of bringing a modern twist to the beloved ghost-chasing franchise. However, the story’s amusing and refreshing stance, as well as its energetic vibe and slick special effects, are, overall, strong – the sum of its parts are, at least.
Stepping in for an all-male lead cast are four undeniably funny female comedians who show the willingness and the confidence in carrying the movie. Offering plenty of laughs and ghost-ass-kicking skills, McCarthy - delivering a pleasantly reserved performance - and Wiig are the strongest of the bunch with Jones and McKinnon falling as a close second. Unfortunately though, pointless cameos from the original cast never really resonate and actually distract and Casey’s villain is not as, let’s say, villainous as the story demanded him to be. In addition, the running gag on Hemsworth’s version of a dumb-blonde secretary is funny but, wears out thin pretty early on.
Nevertheless, Ghostbusters still manages to deliver. Embracing the spirit of the original whilst playing with its own modern bearings, the story serves to be a solid and thoroughly enjoyable take Ivan Reitman’s supernatural classic that even most of its hardcore haters might find hard not to love.
Delivering more than its fair share of scares, the follow-up to director James Wan’s 2013 hit horror-film, The Conjuring, continues its almost-flawless cinematic realisation with a aesthetically pleasing, atmospherically fitting and particularly creepy sequel.
Set in 1976, The Conjuring 2 is once again centred on paranormal investigators Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren who are living at the height of their infamy following their involvement in the highly controversial ‘Amityville Horror’ case. After encountering a horrifying demon during one of their sessions at the old Lutz home, the couple decides that it’s time to give their profession a little rest.
Meanwhile, in Enfield, U.K, Peggy Hodgson (O’Connor) and her four children are being terrorised by a mysterious and malevolent demonic presence that has developed a keen interest in her youngest daughter, Janet (the wonderful Ms. Wolfe). Enlisted by the Catholic Church to fly over and investigate the case - which at this point has been dubbed as ‘England’s Amityville’ - Ed and Lorraine find themselves against an unknown evil entity whose power is yet to be tested.
The Conjuring 2 proves to be yet another chilling and skilfully-executed horror tale from Saw director James Wan, who has allegedly turned down the opportunity to direct Fast 8 for an ‘life-altering’ amount of money, in order to continue his work here – and horror fans will be glad he did.
The biggest cliché in Hollywood is that no sequel can ever top its predecessor; but in this particular case, The Conjuring 2 bucks the trend. Expanding on the old in order to bring in the new, everything about the story feels tighter and more focused. The lingering, creepy mood is just right and the camera work in particular is remarkable, with Wan’s admiration of 70’s and 80’s horror movies evident throughout.
Wilson and Farmiga are strong in their respective roles and while Farmiga is given a little bit more to do this time around, they are both equally deserving of plaudits. Their onscreen chemistry is easy and palpable, which serves the story well, while thirteen year-old British-born actress, Madison Wolfe, is absolutely outstanding as the possessed young child whose identity is slowly being swallowed up by something from within.
Overall, The Conjuring 2 is a successfully frightening follow-up which will keep fans, and newcomers, happy and satisfied. While there are moments of predictability to be found, the story’s two-hour-plus running time never, ever feels like a chore.