The Raven Blu-ray Review
Having lived in Baltimore for 13 years I am well aware of the mysteries concerning Edgar Allan Poe. It is the city where he died, where he is buried and where, for many decades, a mysterious figure would leave three roses and a bottle of cognac at Poe’s grave every January 19th (the date of Poe’s birth). The gift bearer did not show up in 2011 or 2012, leaving many to think he has passed away. A mystery true to the master himself.
THE RAVEN begins in Baltimore, circa 1849. The local police are called to investigate a rather gruesome murder of a mother and her young daughter. What confuses the police is that the door was locked from the inside and the window nailed shut. Who did it, they wonder, and how did they escape? When detective Emmett Fields (Evans) is brought on the case he mutters aloud that the case is very familiar to him, later learning the murders are similar to those written about in a collection of horror stories by Edgar Allan Poe (Cusack). Poe is questioned and released but soon another murder is committed. Then another. Both in ways detailed in Poe’s writings. When Poe’s beloved Emily (Eve) turns up missing Poe joins Fields in the hopes of saving her from the killer.
A fine thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat, THE RAVEN benefits from the everyman persona of John Cusack. In the almost three decades since THE SURE THING, Cusack has always managed to come across as a decent person, even when his characters weren’t. That is true here. His Poe is a drunkard but there is still a charm that beats under his black suit. As Fields, Evans (soon to be seen in Peter Jackson’s upcoming THE HOBBIT trilogy) relentlessly hunts for clues in Poe’s writings, making both of them possibly history’s first violent crime profilers. In a supporting role Brendan Gleason brings the necessary gravitas as Emily’s father.
Director McTiegue, who also helmed the dark period piece V FOR VENDETTA tells the story in a straight-forward way, adding only the occasional flourishes of 21st century filmmaking. The set pieces and period look, courtesy of production designer Roger Ford and a quintet of art directors, are top notch and the musical score by composer Lucas Vidal helps build the suspense. The crimes mentioned are particularly gruesome but the effects aren’t too over the top. Credit screenwriters Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare (yes, thanks to a marriage in 1826 she IS related to the Bard) with researching the period and understanding what 19th Century clues could be left and why.
Video: The picture is sharp and clear, which is a testament to the high quality 1080p resolution, especially since the majority of the film takes place in darkness, be it outdoors or in 19th century buildings lit by gas and candles. The film is presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
Audio: The sound is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is pretty clear. The music track does not overpower the dialogue which is often the case theatrically in films like this.
Commentary with John McTeigue, Trevor Macy, Aaron Ryder and Marc Evans: Director McTeigue and the producers share stories about the location shooting in Budapest and give a humorous narration of the on screen action. SPOILER ALERT: not sure who it is but one of the producers is about 10 seconds of screen time ahead on his narration, which leads to some suspense killing.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:41): Six deleted scenes that do not really add anything to the story.
The Raven Guts: Bringing Death to Life (13:32): A competent making-of-feature with the usual on location interviews and behind the scenes footage.
The Madness, Misery and Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe (9:50): A nice tribute to Poe’s legacy, including a visit to the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Baltimore.
Behind the Beauty and Horror (2:18): A less than three minute featurette – basically a condensed version of “The Raven Guts” noted above
The Raven presents John Cusack and James McTeigue (2:45): A short bit of Cusack interviewing director McTeigue and his interest in doing the film.
Music for The Raven – The Team (5:10): a surprisingly interesting look into how the film was scored including chats with composer Lucas Vidal and others.
Theatrical trailer for The Raven and other upcoming films