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Film / The Raven (2012)

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The Raven is a 2012 American psychological crime thriller film directed by James McTeigue. It stars John Cusack, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson and Luke Evans.

The film is a fictionalized account of the last days of life of writer Edgar Allan Poe in 1849, in which Poe (Cusack) pursues a serial killer whose murders mirror those in Poe's stories with the help of Inspector Fields (Evans). While the plot of the film is fictional, some accounts of real situations surrounding Poe's mysterious death also appear in the story.

This film features examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The film features an adaptation of The Pit and the Pendulum and adds a plot with a killer inspired by the works of Poe, one of his murders being, of course, a recreation of "The Pit and the Pendulum".
  • Alternate History: The film features a rival of Poe, Ludwig Griswold, as one of the serial killer's victims (in a recreation of The Pit and the Pendulum). The character is clearly meant to be Rufus Wilmot Griswold, a real life rival of Poe who in real life outlived Poe by eight years. (He in fact wrote a scathing obituary of Poe under the pen name "Ludwig," from where the name of the character seems to come from.) In addition, of course, the whole "serial killer who kills people based on Edgar Allan Poe stories" never happened.
  • Anachronism Stew: There are some minor ones with regards to terms. Characters using the term "OK" in 1849 might be defensible, since it's been recorded first around a decade prior, but people saying "fan" to refer to an admirer is used about four decades early.
  • Battle Butler: The Hamilton's butler Percy is a pretty husky guy, and accompanies Charles when he rides to the church and briefly pursues the killer.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Edgar Allan Poe investigated a series of murders based on his stories.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Ivan Reynolds.
  • Buried Alive: One of the killer's victims is entombed alive within the sewer walls a la The Cask of Amontillado.
  • Dragged into Drag: One of the killer's victims is a man who was forced to wear a dress before entombing him alive within the sewer walls.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: One of the killer's victims gets bisected by a pendulum.
  • Historical In-Joke: The film provides an "explanation" for the mysterious circumstances surrounding Poe's death: He was poisoned by a serial killer he was investigating, and the reason why in real life Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" before his death was because that was the killer's last name.
  • Hope Spot: Emily breaks through the cover of the crate she's imprisoned in and clambers out into the killer's hidden study, only to be grabbed from behind by her captor.
  • In Name Only: The plot of the film has nothing to do with the Edgar Allan Poe poem The Raven, even though Poe is the main character and the plot is about a serial killer recreating Poe's stories in his murders. (unsurprisingly, as A) an adaptation of the poem would not fill a feature film, and B) The Raven does not feature a murder).
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: As it looks like Ivan is about to get away with everything by escaping to Paris, Fields figures out Edgar's Dying Clue, tracks Ivan down, and shoots him dead.
  • Mauve Shirt: Constable Cantrell who’s on the scene for the first murder, finds the body with the clue to the church then gets killed there.
  • Mouth Stitched Shut: The killer leaves a clue in the sewn-shut mouth of a dead man.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: After finally tracking the killer down, exchanging many a bullet throughout the film the killer offers Poe a drink while a corpse sits in the next room. Seemingly wanting to talk about poetry and how wonderful Poe's works are, to the consternation of Poe.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Poe's publisher speculates that the murders might help his sales, although he did appear to be drunk at the time.
  • Nothing Personal: Percy, the Hamilton's butler, keeps Poe from seeing Emily under her father's orders, but doesn't seem to really dislike him.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Fields' main subordinates, Captain Eldridge and Constable Cantrell.
  • Pendulum of Death: The film contains multiple reenactments of Poe's horror stories, included a scene where the "Pit and the Pendulum" scenario is recreated and successfully kills its victim.
  • Retired Badass: Charles Hamilton spent most of his life at sea and isn't shy about using his pistol.
  • Roadside Wave: When Poe exits Hamilton's carriage, he immediately splashed as the carriage passes through a puddle as it drives away.
  • Selective Magnetism: Justified as an actual clue when Fields discovers that a hair from a crime scene is for some reason attracted to a magnet. That's because the culprit was a newspaperman, and there were traces of iron-based printer's ink on the hair.
  • Self-Made Orphan: The killer claims he killed his own father.
  • Stranger Behind the Mask: The killer is revealed to be a random typesetter fan of Poe of no significance.
  • Straw Critic: The killer's first victim is a literary critic who had bashed Poe's work.
  • Take That!: The man who is cut in half by the pendulum is Ludwig Griswold. In real life, upon Poe's death, Rufus Wilmot Griswold wrote an unfavorable obituary for Poe under the pen name "Ludwig." Additionally, Griswold, claiming to be Poe's literary executor, attempted to destroy the author's reputation by writing a biographical article about Poe painting him as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman, claiming that he had proof in the form of letters he claimed to be Poe's, but were later found to be forgeries. Griswald's mendacious portrayal of Poe is credited for having formed most people's impression of the man, such as that he was an alcoholic, which were later proven false.
  • Theme Serial Killer: The film features a series of killings based on Poe's works. As they happen in 1849, this leads to Poe himself getting involved in the investigation.
  • Villain Respect: The killer is Poe's "biggest fan" whose whole motive seems to be goading Poe into writing one more story. He finds Poe's solution to the problem of getting Emily back to be brilliant.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out!: Done to Fields in great haste - at his insistence - so he can get back to the pursuit as soon as possible after catching a round from the killer.
  • Would Hurt a Child: One of the killer's victims is a 12-year old girl who was strangled before stuffing her body into a chimney.
  • You're Insane!: Said by Poe after finally tracking down the killer, who is an ardent fan that considers his grisly killings "art".