“The Raven”

Edgar Allan Poe was an enigmatic character who wrote some weird stuff. John Cusack brings him to life in “The Raven,” a movie that satisfies in so many ways.

Grisly murders are a Poe staple. In “The Raven,” when people begin to die in 1840’s Baltimore in crimes that resemble Poe stories, Poe becomes a suspect. In short order though, he becomes an aid to police as they try to solve this “whodunit.”

The literary references throughout the movie will make American Lit majors happy. Poe’s efforts to expose the serial killer via his writing original fictional material for the Baltimore newspaper lends more literary cred to the story.

Like gore? There’s plenty here to sicken and shock. But gore was a big part of Poe’s writing and the inconvenient truth is that gore is a big part of “The Raven.”

Despite a few moments of anger that bring to mind Nicolas Cage rants, John Cusack is excellent as Poe. He is a portrayed as a polarizing man whose work was embraced by the public whereas he, himself, was not particularly likeable. In “The Raven,” we see Poe as a bit of an arrogant jerk, but also as a vastly intelligent man with passion for his work and love for a woman.

Alice Eve is Poe’s girlfriend/fiancé and Brendan Gleeson plays her father, who detests Poe. Luke Evans is the police detective who initially suspects Poe and later solicits his input in solving the mystery.

“The Raven” was shot in Hungary and Serbia where well-preserved 19th century structures provide perfect settings for the film’s action. Any sunshine is filtered out of daytime exterior shots to maintain the dark and dreary look and mood of the film.

Though not a perfect film nor award-worthy, “The Raven” provides solid entertainment and a great performance by the likeable John Cusack. See it.













“Cabin in the Woods”—(Scary Funny)

Five college students (three guys, two girls) drive an RV to a secluded cabin for a weekend of fun. Bad things happen. That’s about all I can reveal without venturing into spoiler territory.

If you’ve seen the preview trailers, you already know that the students are being watched. The watchers are in a control room with big screen TV monitors.

Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford play the mission control leaders. Their nonchalant, routine, ho-hum approach to their work, complete with joking, gossiping and side bets, belies the terrors that we know will ensue.

More humor comes from the stoner among the five, played by Fran Kranz. The only well-known actor among the college quintet is Chris Hemsworth who starred as Thor last year. (“Cabin” was shot in ’09 before he got the Thor role. He’ll be Thor again in the new “Avengers” movie coming in three weeks.)

In “Cabin,” as in many movies of this genre, tension builds slowly until the horror gets going. As the story proceeds to its resolution, things get really weird. Honestly, much of the weirdness is hard to describe. Just enjoy the ride.

“Cabin in the Woods” is not the scariest movie I’ve seen, nor is it the funniest. But it does a nice job of blending horror and comedy. Rated R for gore, language, weed and boobs.