Love Him Or Hate Him, John Cusack Is Edgar Allan Poe - The Raven 2012

"The Premature Burial", illustrated by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), published in 1919.
"The Premature Burial", illustrated by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), published in 1919. | Source

Horror Films and Horrible Critiques

Some of the major film critics in the newspapers criticized both the film and actor John Cusack in 2012's The Raven, because he is not Nicholas Cage.

These voices says that Cage should have been cast as Poe, but I think that casting would have taken the film over the top and over camp into near-comedy. Ghost Rider was a very entertaining and visually stimulating film, but its sequel was much less so. The superhero from hell character, though, was on the edge of comedy inn both - a little like Cage's mad ambulance driver in Bringing Out the Dead. Still, Cage might be cast as Poe in some other sort of storyline and we;ll see what we get. Could be interesting.

As it was in The Raven (2012), we received an entertaining movie a little like TV's Castle, wherein a writer works closely with a police detective. I think it makes an interesting film from a new angle in Poe's life and death and gives the public something to appreciate in the absence of the Poe Toaster. That individual no longer secretly visits Poe's grave to leave a rose and a partial bottle of alcoholic beverage.

Whether the person or his descendants that carried out this tribute for decades died, lost interest, or were put off by the hordes of people waiting to catch a glimpse of him, we do not know. The crowds of vigilant onlookers waiting for him certainly took the fun out of the tribute. They also robbed the public of the Poe Toaster story every year. The Raven of 2012 provided an alternative entertainment, especially since it was released in April when the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Awards were announced. Long time mystery writer Martha Grimes was given the Grandmaster award in 2012 and the other winners can be seen at The Edgar Awards. A stage play with Holmes and Watson is one of the winners, bring delight to fans of that duo.

A Different Manner of Portrayal

John Cusack portrays Edgar Allan Poe in a way we don't usually imagine, despite hearing all our lives that the author was an alcoholic and expelled from West Point.

We see Cusack's Poe craving alcohol, screaming at people in bars and being tossed out, shouting at his newspaper editor, and bellowing about a worn out hack critic's work being used in place of his own. Poe is not appreciated in his own lifetime as he might have been. In fact, his innovative style may have earned him a rating of "crackpot." Viewing the film, one might even say, "No wonder he drinks."

I think Cusack portrayed Poe more on the mark of the real man than anyone else to date.

"The Pit and the Pendulum" illustration by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), first printed in 1919.
"The Pit and the Pendulum" illustration by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), first printed in 1919. | Source

The plot of 2012's The Raven circles through the work of a serial killer whose identity we do not expect in the end. The murderer uses Poe's own short stories to set up the tableaux for his killings and then he taunts the writer about the stories and the current victims of them.

Letters and notes reach Poe, as if from Jack the Ripper. At some point I thought, how compulsively driven the murderer seemed and then I had an inkling of his identity.

Each murder is staged well and that based on The Pit and the Pendulum will have many viewers fearing pendulums and sharp objects for many years afterwards. This one features a lot of blood and we are treated to seeing the entire murder and the gory corpse afterwards. Who is the dead person? - Someone Poe probably wanted to murder.

Source
Fells Point fog
Fells Point fog | Source
The original grave site, where the Poe Toaster paid tribute to the writer on his birthday every January 19th.
The original grave site, where the Poe Toaster paid tribute to the writer on his birthday every January 19th. | Source
Edgar Allan Poe's grave marker in Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, Baltimore MD. Cognac and three roses sometimes appear at this site, but the media report that this is likely the work of a Poe Toaster copycat.
Edgar Allan Poe's grave marker in Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, Baltimore MD. Cognac and three roses sometimes appear at this site, but the media report that this is likely the work of a Poe Toaster copycat. | Source

Poe's Romantic Death

Poe wrote during the Romantic Period of literature and poetry and became one of the most famous Dark Romanticists. Since that time, medicine and health science have noted that many writers of this sort have immense talent coupled with depression and alcoholism/substance abuse and further, that writing therapy helps some patients that suffer depression and/or substance abuse. Out of despair and alcohol came the solid foundation of the short story as a recognized genre, along with detective fiction, all from the mind of Edgar Allan Poe. Horror and science fiction were interwoven among his work.

In the recent film, Poe talks about his wife's death from consumption (tuberculosis) as an agonizing ongoing maelstrom and how it took everything out of his heart. Then he is thankful that he met Emily (fictional) and gained hope for a future. Emily becomes an intended victim of the serial killer that is taunting Poe. Poe's life is consumed with seeking the killer in order to stop this crazed "fan" from using his stories for staging murders. The killer wants to take on Poe's life himself, feeling unappreciated in his own work; he wants to kill Poe as well and we see this syndrome among stalkers today. It resignations with viewers that have been plagued by a stalker themselves.

The account of Poe's actual death is sketchy He was found apparently stumbling through the streets of Baltimore, babbling incomprehensibly. Some historians think he had been drinking at The Horse You Came In On pub. Edgar may have been poisoned. This might have been alcohol poisoning itself, wood alcohol poisoning, or absinthe intoxication. The recollections of drinkers that absinthe causes hallucinations are reportedly exaggerated, however.

Poe may have been heavily intoxicated altogether, or poisoned by wood alcohol, or both drunken and feverish. Diseases of the time in industrialized cities included two that produced delirium: typhoid fever and typhus. In 1849, bacteria as such had not yet been discovered; that came near the end of the American Civil War in Louis Pasteur's discoveries in France. Edgar may also have suffered a head injury, which might result in incoherent speech. Unfortunately, the most serious STDs can result in dementia.

The most interesting theory, since Edgar was found wearing someone else's clothing, is that he was a victim of forced voting in a local election. It was a political practice for groups to beat a citizen several times, each time dressing him in different clothing, and forcing him into a polling place to vote for a particular candidate.

Bricked Up In a Wall

"The Cask of Amontillado" illustrated by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), published in 1919.
"The Cask of Amontillado" illustrated by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), published in 1919. | Source

Poe wrote this story in retaliation for a stabbing parody of Poe's life published by Thomas Dunn English.

Horror

There is plenty of bloody excitement and gore in this film, without going over the top. The pendulum murder is quite grisly and we see a body that has been bricked up in a wall in the sewers below Baltimore. Ravens and coffins appear intermittently as well. A grand ball scene representing the Masque of the Red Death is interesting, but I would have liked to have seen the differently colored rooms within the party, as illustrated in the story. What makes up for that lack is a comic scene in which Poe grabs drinks from passing trays; chugging one in particular, he flings the empty glass backwards into another room cordoned off with heavy draperies. Poe's constant imaginative name calling is also a treat.

John Cusack as Poe works well with Luke Evans as Detective Fields, and this is where the plot is similar to Castle, the writer and detective working together. In real life, we'd say that that would never happen - but it did. It happened with Truman Capote and Harper Lee worked with detectives in preparing the manuscript of In Cold Blood. One difference is that Fields asks Poe to help him, as does Lestrade of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock of the 2010s.

See The Raven (2012). It is quite different from the Karloff-Lugosi horror film of 1935 and the Karloff-Price-Lorre Raven comedy of 1963 and several other remakes.

Additional 2012 Horror Films

The next historical fiction film I want to see is Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. It did not happen, but it is fun to think that it might have done so. I like the way the President twirls an axe before he uses it...

Ironically, Nicholas Cage tried for this role, but Benjamin Walker won the part.

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Comments 17 comments

Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 4 years ago from Orlando, Florida

Thanks for the review, Patty. This film is on the list of movies my husband and I want to see this summer.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

I trust John Cusack's portrayal of anyone! Thanks for the review!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

They chose the right actor. I love Nick Cage but I realize that as he gets older her is leaning more towards comedy. I have seen him in very serious films like "Face Off" but I can't imagine him being rowdy in a bar or screaming at his editor with their being some laughter involved. John on the other hand, I can imagine he fits the part well. I would love to see this film. I love horror and that fact you mentioned a body being bricked up in a wall makes it even more interesting.


JSParker profile image

JSParker 4 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

Dear Patty, thanks for all the interesting detail and backstory on The Raven and its author. I have to say I'm really torn now about seeing the movie. John Cusack is a fine actor and I would like to see his performance. However, this one sounds so bloody, and there is a part of me that thinks Poe's work is best left alone in the visual imagination, not brought to corporal reality. I wonder how Poe would feel about it. I guess I'm just not that in to the horror genre, and I still think of Poe's work in a different category.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

They doing the body right out of the wall down in the sewers. Bodies and living people are found in morgues,under floor boards and all sorts of places.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

My previous comment seems confusing to me, I meant I can't imagine Cage screaming at his editor "without" there being some laughter......I swear my eyes really need fixing...lol


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Patty, Great review of this film about Poe, i am now looking forward to seeing it after reading you review. John Cusack is a fine actor and I'm sure he will play this part as if he were Poe (The Raven). We will see....

Vote up and more !!!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I get what you mean; I think the same.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I think this was the first time I actually felt as though I were looking at Poe on the screen and found it uncanny.


rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

A great take! I literally had epilepsy and fits after watching Ghostrider 2.

John Cusack is a good actor... I liked him 1408 too!

Thanks for the review...


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Well, let's put them in a film together. Has that been done yet?


rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

I do not think so... But I personally think that Nicholas Cage has been stereotyped.. despite the good acting he can give... he is directed to give "IDUNNOWWHAT2SAY" performance in Ghostrider 2...

Both of them in movie sounds good...BTW


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I think it would be fun to see them together.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

I'll have to see the film! I love John Cusack. - Joan too really. There's just something so down to earth about him. Poe was so interesting - brilliant and sad.

I honestly miss so much because I never turn the television on except late night - it puts me right to sleep:) lol. I do want to see this now - thanks you did a great review:)

Absinthe was outlawed for so long and now they have legalized it here! You can buy it right at the A & P so to speak. I must say, I'm shocked and I think it's a really bad idea. We have enough junk for people to lose their minds on.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

That's true - enough mind-loosening things already. But the movie is very good imo. I'm going to see it again.


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

I honestly had mix feelings watching the Raven. Yes, the story and the acting was good (and the gore was not over the top); however, I felt as though they could have brought in some stronger characterization and counterpoint characterization with the newspaper editors to enhance the story just a little bit more to my tastes (although I am a stickler, the story was definitely well executed in general). I will definitely see the movie again since, in general, the characterization was good. I just hoped for a little bit more from other characters.

Overall, I thought this was a great review of the movie and the actors. Well done! Voted up.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I would also enjoy seeing more about the editor. Thanks for your comments!

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