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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.
If you’ve enjoyed the type of quirkiness in 2009’s Coraline or the creepy-goofiness of 2012’s ParaNorman, then The Boxtrolls – the latest stop-motion creation and an adaptation of Alan Snow’s Here Be Monsters! novel – might be right up your alley.
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, The Boxtrolls is set in a Victorian-like city of Cheesebridge. The residents, through scary and gruesome fables, believe there are deadly Boxtrolls living underneath their streets.
When a human boy goes missing, it is believed that the scary monsters from down-under have eaten him. Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Kingsley) – a sneaky pest exterminator – offers to go in and eradicate the threat himself, in the hope of gaining access to the elite society known as White Hats. However, the missing boy in question is in fact an orphan named Eggs (Hempstead-Wright), who has been living with the the so-called monsters ever since he was two years old and, just like them, he now spends most of his time collecting recycled trash and building various devices and gadgets out of them.
Luckily, Eggs and his faithful buddies are more than capable of staying out of trouble and far away from Archibald’s menacing grip; that is until, Eggs – a boy who is part-human and part-Boxtroll – lays his eyes on beautiful young human girl, Winnie Portley-Rind (Fanning), and instantly falls for her. However, Eggs begins to learn the hard way that his infatuation with her is going to cause him problems.
The latest production to come out of Laika studios – a renowned stop-motion animation company specialising in feature films – is another unique and quirky addition to the company’s filmography. Dark, whimsical and delightfully unconventional, The Boxtrolls sings to its own tune and succeeds in creating an original setting and a story that stays unique to Disney and Pixar. The time and effort that went into creating the world of Cheesebridge – and all of its peculiar, British-speaking residents – is evident.
Led by Game of Thrones’ Hempstead-Wright – better known as Bran Stark of Winterfell – the performances were equally solid and although Eggs could have had a little bit more spring to his step, it was Kingsley – as the deliciously evil exterminator – who steals the show along with Frost, Ayoade and Morgan, who provide the voices for Archibald’s thugs.
The Boxtrolls; it’s by no means groundbreaking, but it is an incredibly fun and unusual watch.
Sinking the already-shaky horror-genre deeper into further oblivion, Ouija – based on a popular spirit-summoning board-game from the 1890’s – is, unfortunately, nothing to get excited about.
Written and directed by Stiles White – along with the penning support of Juliet Snowden – the story is centred on best friends, Laine (Cooke) and Debbie (Henning), who, ever since they were young girls, loved to indulge in a childish and seemingly harmless play using the Ouija board.
Several years later, however, Laine is shocked to learn that Debbie has killed herself and even more surprised to learn that – after visiting her home – that there is evidence of Debbie playing with the Ouija board all by herself; a big no-no in the world of spirits and magic. In order to get to resolve the mystery surrounding her death, Laine calls upon the help of her sister, Sarah (Coto), friend, Trevor, (Kagasoff) and Debbie’s boyfriend, Pete (Smith), to play with the Ouija board and summon Debbie’s spirit.
However, things turn upside down when they accidentally end up summoning an evil spirit who, unlike Debbie, wishes to spread harm upon the group. Now, Laine, who brought everyone into this mess in the first place, needs to find a way to shut the portal - between earth and the life beyond - before it’s too late.
Although the idea of turning a popular board-game into a movie doesn’t sound all that ridiculous and the material seems generally interesting, there just isn’t enough imagination or character in Ouija to make it worthwhile. Lacking depth and character, the film relies a little bit too much on the jump-scare tactic and the lack of suspense and tension only adds to its weak attempt to create a frightening horror experience.
Adding salt to the wound, the characters are just as weak thanks to the poorly-scripted material. Cooke leads the way as the only character of note and the relatively new face won’t have harmed her future prospects. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, simply don’t register and ultimately fail to convey a single genuine emotion.
Ouija is tedious, unimaginative and seemingly uninterested in elaborating and expanding on its own source material.