Edgar Allan Poe is without a doubt one of the best and most influential American writers. His influence even goes beyond the United States of America and travels far and wide around the world. Countless other writers, painters, filmmakers, and even songwriters have been inspired by his tales. But where did Poe himself get the inspiration to write his fantastic tales? How did he manage to not only define the horror genre but also invent what would become the entire mystery police drama genre? Let’s review Raven’s Hollow. A film that tries to answer those questions.
Raven’s Hollow is directed by Christopher Hatton, and it is written by Hatton himself in collaboration with Chuck Reeves. The film stars William Moseley, Melanie Zanetti, Kate Dickie, Callum Woodhouse, and Oberon K.A. Adjepong. The film tells the story of young Edgar Allan Poe during his days as a cadet in the United States Army. One day, Poe, and his companions discover a gruesome murder, and only one clue to solve it, the word “Raven”. Poe and his companions will begin an investigation that will take them to the darkest plains of rural New York.
Using historical figures and placing them in strange and fantastic situations seems to have become an entire genre by itself. It is certainly one that captures the imagination, as using some of these well-recorded historical figures and giving them a new secret sounds pretty exciting. This isn’t the first time Poe has appeared in a fictionalized version of his life or the first time he has been involved in a supernatural adventure. It seems that writers are often looking for the source of inspiration for Poe’s legendary poem, The Raven, and so many of his other works.
So, we come face to face with Raven’s Hollow, a supernatural low-budget film that uses Poe and many of his works as influences to create one sole tale to explain where Poe got all of his ideas. Raven’s Hollow is filled to the brink with Easter Eggs. If you’re a fan of Poe, you will spend most of your time like DiCaprio’s and Captain America’s memes as you point out and recognize all the references to many of Poe’s more important works. The names of characters and places are all taken from Poe’s bibliography.
The references and Easter Eggs are fun, but what about the story itself? Is Raven’s Hollow a story that can stand on its own? Yes, and no. You see, the film’s story is completely functional. It is presented as a sort of whodunit, and little by little, more supernatural elements are added to the whole. Having a fantastic element in your story is always great, but here, it seems that the fantastical element makes for a substitute for the detective element in the opening act of the film. Towards the end, any sense of logic is thrown out of the window.
The detective elements also feel very weird throughout the film, almost half-baked. Rian Johnson came up with the most successful whodunit in recent memory. And while his plot was, of course, influenced by the works of, for example, Agatha Christie, Johnson’s plot was solid enough that it was more than just an Easter Egg or homage. It was actually a fascinating mystery in its own right. Something that cannot be said for Raven’s Hollow, as the mystery element feels very underwritten.
Poe, as a character, places himself as the man trying to solve a mystery and drags everybody else with him. This would be exciting if Poe was a good or at least decent detective at all, but he isn’t. He is totally inept, judgmental, and clueless about what is happening around him. As the movie finishes, the character is simply throwing suppositions at the wall to see what sticks to it. Because the mystery plot feels so incomplete, the entire mystery stops mattering very early on. You just wait for the movie to tell you the answer straight away.
The plot is not the only dodgy thing about the film. The acting is also quite bad. This is very strange because most of the cast is comprised of actors that have been doing a lot of work. The only saving grace of the film when it comes to the acting is the always fantastic Kate Dickie. The actress does well in almost every place she puts her stamp on, and this is not different. However, the rest of the actors around her have this strange feeling of slow reactions that really hurts the tension in the scenes.
The production design is quite solid. The sets and even the costumes are really well-made, and they sell the scenario where the movie takes place. It is not the best level of production design or costumes you have ever seen, but it does the job. The movie also feels the need to use CGI to create its main creature, and the result is not very consistent. Of course, you have to take into account that quality CGI is expensive, and this movie doesn’t seem to have a big enough budget for that.
Raven’s Hollow overstays its welcome very quickly, and sadly, it doesn’t deliver when it comes to a great mystery or a fantastic supernatural adventure. It stays in the end somewhere between both places. Maybe it should have focused on just one element more than in the other and created something that feels more solid and satisfying once the credits start rolling.