DVD Review: "The Raven:" Underwhelming, but Worth the Watch

The RavenThe Raven, set in the mid-1800s in Baltimore, is a fictional account of the last few days of Edgar Allan Poe's life, and what could have transpired. Don't let the title fool you; however, the film is not about his poem, nor even the bird. A serial killer is murdering people in ways that come from the pages of Poe's works, such as The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which starts the story.

The Raven

A woman is found with her throat slashed open and her daughter stuffed in a chimney, and it is Detective Emmett Fields who is called in to investigate the case. Fields realizes why the details seem familiar and contacts Poe.

Poe is painted as a broke drunkard, going through tough times. He struggles to get his reviews printed in the newspaper until he can come up with another masterpiece. Meanwhile, he has fallen in love with and proposed to Emily Hamilton. They have agreed to announce their engagement at the ball to her father, who hates him.

His life is interrupted when Fields comes to enlist Poe's help with the grisly murders.

If you know Poe's work, you might expect the film The Raven to be very macabre and dark, which it is. If you are like me, however, you probably also would expect the film to be gory, scary, and suspenseful. While the film does have its moments, I found it more morose than anything - yes there is gore, but I didn't find it very frightening in the way you might expect. I also did not feel the suspense and tension that the creators were going for. Overall, I found the movie very underwhelming in that department.

The RavenHowever, that's not to say I did not enjoy the film, in fact I did. I was impressed by John Cusack as Poe; he was captivating and I enjoyed his dark wit. I believed him as the writer. Luke Evans also played a great Detective Fields to Cusack's Poe. Even Alice Eve fit the part of Emily, and Brendan Gleeson was, as always, a smart addition to the cast.

I was also very pleased the mystery aspect of the film - following the clues left by the killer and trying to deduce the outcome. I just don't feel the movie lived up to what the filmmakers wanted it to be - it's definitely advertised as a thriller, and that it is not, in my opinion. If I had gone into the film not expecting a thriller, I might have not felt the letdown.

The other part that I really enjoyed was the dialog and overall look of the film. I am a fan of Poe, and much of the dialog is taken from his writings. The atmosphere was also done exceptionally well - you can tell that a lot of work and thought was put into the design of the film, from the sets to even the way it was filmed gave the feeling of the period it took place in.

If you are looking for a good mystery or a period piece, or are a fan of Poe's work, I recommend the film. The macabre film looked great and it was worth the time, just don't expect "thrills and chills."

Special Features:

Deleted & Extended Scenes - There are six deleted scenes, though they are mostly just slight variances on the originals, or fairly insignificant.

The Raven Guts: Bringing Death to Life - This segment is of the cast and crew talking about a variety of things, such as Poe's original stories, casting, and insight into the characters. The screen writers explain that in the film Fields is like a precursor to a forensic scientist and Poe a modern profiler. They also talk at length about working with director James McTeigue and about creating Baltimore in Eastern Europe, as well as the work that went into the sets and costumes.

The Madness, Misery, and Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe - This feature is all about Poe's life, from childhood to death. It talks about his personal struggles as well as his work.

Behind the Beauty and the Horror - This featurette is very short, and is of the actors explaining the film, interspersed with clips, almost like an extended trailer.

The Raven Presents John Cusack & James McTeigue - Another short featurette, the actor and director take turn asking each other questions, such as why they joined the project.

Music from The Raven: The Team - The director and those involved in creating the music for the film, including composer Lucas Vidal, discuss how the soundtrack was made, including editing, mixing, etc.

Commentary - The commentary is with the director and producers Marc D. Evans, Trevor Macy, and Aaron Ryder. They talk about a number of things, from the music selection, to shooting locations, to weaving Poe's stories into the film.


The set consists of two discs, the first one being the Blu-ray, which holds in addition to the film, all the special features. The second disc is the DVD standard version which also includes the digital copy. It is a standard thin Blu-ray clam case with box jacket, nothing out of the ordinary.

The only listing in the packaging is on the back that lists the special features. Usually I think an insert in the case is important, but as there is only one disc with special features, and not many at that, it's really not a big deal.

I did want to mention the quality of the (Blu-ray) video as well. The graphics were very crisp, and the blacks were very black for the film, many times even blending into the black bars. The only complaint I have is sometimes in the very dark scenes because of this, it was hard to see everything that was going on, such as in the tunnels at the start of the film. Other than that, the video quality was great.

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