“I now observed -- with what horror it is needless to say -- that its nether extremity was formed of a crescent of glittering steel, about a foot in length from horn to horn; the horns upward, and the under edge evidently as keen as that of a razor. Like a razor also, it seemed massy and heavy, tapering from the edge into a solid and broad structure above. It was appended to a weighty rod of brass, and the whole hissed as it swung through the air.”
- "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe
(Rogue Pictures) When one thinks of mystery and the macabre, Gothic poet Edgar Allan Poe instantly springs to mind. Scribe of dark romanticist poems ("The Raven," "The Bells"), novels, plays, and short stories, Poe has long since become a character himself. He has been immortalized as a mad genius, a tragic artist whose tales were not quite understood by the masses of his time. Tim Burton’s short animation character, Vincent, quotes "The Raven" as he stalks through his chilling, claymation world. Batman: Nevermore is a DC mini-series of comics with Poe as Batman’s sidekick against evil. This year, three films with Poe as the unlikely protagonist are in the works, but none so intriguing as The Raven, starring John Cusack.
Cusack has a wry, clever air about him that seems unusual for the character of Edgar Allan Poe. After years as the lovable misfit (Better Off Dead, Say Anything), he has starred in bigger blockbusters as of late (1408, 2012). Like one of his classic films, High Fidelity, Cusack has pockets of die-hard fans everywhere. Despite a few setbacks, they wait with bated breath for his next choice. In The Raven, Cusack steps into a horror mystery directed by James McTeigue (V For Vendetta).
Much like Jack the Ripper’s string of brutal murders across London, a serial killer stalks 19th century Baltimore. After the mangled bodies of a mother and daughter are discovered by a dashing young detective (Luke Evans), he discovers that they are the latest in a string of murders that bear an eerie resemblance to Poe’s short fiction. Poe quickly becomes the lead suspect and must somehow discover who is using his work to such an end.
Luckily, The Raven writers, Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare, have plenty of deaths to choose from. "The Pit and the Pendulum" features mutilation by a razor-sharp scythe that swings lower and lower over a bound victim. "The Cask of Amontillado" weaves a tale of revenge -- an intoxicated friend encased in a tomb. "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Ligeia," "The Fall of the House of Usher" – all of Poe’s gruesome short stories have endless inspiration.
The film looks, at the very least, like a grand-scale adventure with plenty of grisly clues to follow. If James McTeigue takes a cue from another morbid mystery, From Hell, The Raven could be a deliciously dark romp. One thing is certain: Cusack lovers will flock to almost any movie with him in it – myself included.
For Fans Of: From Hell, Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent
Why We’re Excited: Gothic Mystery, inspired by literature, John Cusack
Rogue Pictures' ‘The Raven’ is scheduled for release in theaters on Friday, March 9, 2012.