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A brutal killing spree terrorizes 19th-century Baltimore and a young detective turns to a notorious author for help getting inside the mind of a serial killer in the stylish, gothic thriller, ‘The Raven’, an audacious re-imagining of the lurid tales of Edgar Allan Poe.
Starring John Cusack as the infamous inventor of the detective fiction genre and Luke Evans as an ambitious sleuth determined to stop more of Poe’s gruesome stories from coming to chilling life—and death— ‘The Raven’ weaves history and fiction into an original and twisted mystery worthy of the master of the macabre himself.
When a mother and daughter are found viciously murdered in 19th-century Baltimore, Detective Emmett Fields (Evans) makes a startling discovery: the crime resembles a fictional murder described in gory detail in the local newspaper—part of a collection of stories penned by struggling writer and social outcast Edgar Allan Poe (Cusack). But even as Poe is questioned by police, another grisly killing occurs, also inspired by a popular Poe story.
A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues as the pair races to stop a madman from turning every one of the author’s shocking stories into blood-curdling reality. When Poe’s love, Emily (Alice Eve), becomes the killer’s next target, the stakes are raised even higher and he must call on his own powers of deduction to try to solve the case before it’s too late. Directed by James McTeigue, Intrepid Pictures’ ‘The Raven’ also stars Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
Poe of fiction
McTeigue patterned the film after Edgar Allan Poe’s greatest short stories. “They all have this incredible macabre quality, as if they happen in the netherworld of his imagination,” he says. “I really wanted the film to maintain a pop sensibility, because Poe reflected the fears and hopes of the time he lived in. He was one of those genius figures that come along every now and then, like Vincent Van Gogh or Leonardo da Vinci, who seems out of time. He drew from science and politics and art to fashion a new paradigm.”
The director also manages to work into the fabric of the film a very contemporary ethical question. “Poe writes these stories about death and killing, but ultimately he’s never been responsible for anything he writes,” says McTeigue. “When another character in our story says to him, ‘Surely you can’t write all these things and take no responsibility for it?’ Poe’s initial reaction is, ‘Is imagination a crime?’” But Poe will face those consequences.”
The screenwriters have invented a vicious and completely fictional serial killer who takes as inspiration for his crimes Poe’s stories, including “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”
“In the development process, Aaron Ryder and the writers did an unbelievable amount of work crafting the story,” says producer Mark Evans. “When we got involved, we plucked out a few more ideas that we could weave, whether subtly or not so subtly, into the story.”
Combining historical fact with Poe’s imagination and his own flights of creative fancy is part of the fun, Screenwriters Ben Livingston says. “It’s a work of fiction, but we wanted Poe fans to be able to say, ‘I know that part of the story.’ We didn’t set out to write a PhD dissertation on Poe. The movie is meant to be entertaining. At its heart, it is more a love letter to him.”
Producer Aaron Ryder says that while ‘The Raven’ may have initially had its roots in historical fact, the film stands on its own as a unique and challenging thriller. “Hannah [Shakespeare, writer] and Ben took what little can be known and used it as a creative jumping off point for their story,” he says. “We’ve threaded some of the existing facts into it, but we also had a great deal of fun creating something completely new and original.”
Evans says the script is the perfect amalgamation of all of things Poe. “It will give you everything you could possible want: a ticking clock, life or death situations and a great hero. ‘The Raven’ is a multi-layered movie that gives you a solid couple of hours’ worth of entertainment. But it isn’t just a thrill ride.
We’ve got great characters who go on a complicated journey. The audience gets to ride the ups and downs with them and come out at the other end having had an enjoyable experience they’ll want to go back and see again, and will recommend to their friends.”
Image Courtesy of The Raven