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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.
Despite its predictable and somewhat messy setup, Nick Cassavetes' latest romantic comedy about broken hearts, unexpected bonds and the sweetness of revenge offers the occasional moment of gratification.
The story is centred on Carly (Diaz); a stylish and an uncompromising New York City lawyer who has never taken love and dating all that seriously, instead channelling her energies into her career. However, that all changes when she begins dating dashing businessman, Mark King (Coster-Waldau), whom Carly soon starts to see as a possible love prospect.
Little does she know, however, that Mark is harbouring a secret; his wife, Kate (Mann), in Connecticut, who Carly soon gets the pleasure of meeting when she decides to drop by on an unexpected visit. Subsequently, Carly quickly decides to dump Mark and move on with her life.
However, Kate – who is having difficulty accepting the truth that her two-timing husband has been canoodling with the leggy blonde – has other plans. She soon begins to stalk Carly, first at her office and then at her home, begging for details about their relationship and some much-needed advice on how to deal with the mess. The two women soon become friends, bonding over their mutual hatred of the same man and decide to cook up a plan for revenge.
Forty-one-year old Diaz looks absolutely spectacular and maintains a poise as the hard-as-nails Carly, while Mann – who has seemed to have had difficulty in breaking away from her characters from movies such as Knocked Up and This is 40 – is the definite winner. As the source if most of the film’s comedy most, Mann ends up serving as the driving force of the film as the whiny – and deliriously annoying – alcohol-loving Kate. Meanwhile, for Upton, as the second mistress the girls soon find out about, things are not so perky – no pun intended –and the model-turned actress is rather aggravating as the dim third character.
The Other Woman has all of the elements of a solid chick-flick; eye candy, a pleasingly simple plot and plenty of comedy. However, it also descends into a string of over-the-top gags, crude bathroom humour and a series of cringe-worthy musical montages with pop tunes.
Expanding from his 2006 short film, Oculus: Chapter 3- The Man with a Plan, director Mike Flanagan – along with help from writer Jeff Howard – approaches the subject of the supernatural with a considerable amount of imagination and manages to deliver some scares in the relatively unnerving ghostly thriller, Oculus.
The story follows the troubled lives of Tim (Thwaites) and Kaylie Russell (Gillan); a pair of siblings who witnessed the brutal death of their parents over a decade ago. Tim is convicted of the murders and is sent into protective custody and a psychiatric hospital, while Kaylie remains in a pit of despair without her family.
Years later, Tim is released on his twenty-first birthday and is now looking to rebuild his life and move away from his turbulent past. However, Kaylie has become convinced her brother was innocent and that something unnatural is at play.
Kaylie, who works at an auction house, has recently come across the very same oversized, 400 year-old mirror that she believes is responsible for their parents’ deaths. Moving back to their old house and installing surveillance equipment, Kaylie and Tim hope to record evidence of the supernatural being.
A Blumhouse Productions creation – the same people who brought you Paranormal Activity – Oculus, as luck would have it, steers clear of the increasingly overdone found-footage approach, despite what its trailer might suggest. Instead, director Mike Flanagan seems inspired by the horror films of the 70’s and 80’s, like recent flicks, The Conjuring and Sinister, and paints the mood of the film with a slow-burning tone of dread and an ominous fear of the unknown. The film transitions between the past and present wonderfully, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat.
Gillan, the Scottish-born actress known for her role in TV’s Doctor Who, proves to be a relatively solid lead and manages to paint Kaylie with an equal blend of self-determination and fear, while Thwaites’ doe-eyed qualities comes across as a little too sappy.
Sadly, Oculus is not without faults. The film is never fully realised as a story and although it provides its share of scare, it’s all really rather forgettable.