(CBS News) Edgar Allan Poe comes to life on the big screen in the form of John Cusack in “The Raven” — now in theaters.
In the film, when a madman begins committing murders inspired by Poe’s writings, a young Baltimore detective (portrayed by Luke Evans) joins forces with Poe in a quest to get inside the killer’s mind.
Devoted fans of the 19th century author will likely be curious about how “V for Vendetta” director James McTeigue tells the Poe story. Reviews are mixed, with critics even torn within the review itself. Many critics praise Cusack’s acting style, while some scoff at it.
Here’s a sampling of critics’ reviews:
San Francisco Chronicle: “The story has its moments, and yet there is something about this tale of a serial killer’s patterning his crimes on Poe’s most gruesome works that doesn’t completely satisfy. Still for a lot of people – and I’m one of those people – the combination of Cusack and Poe, and of Cusack as Poe, will make the experience worth it. Cusack is wry and modern, and yet as the embodiment of this 19th century writer he has some distinct advantages going in.”
Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers gave it two stars: “What drew me into the film most was the depiction of Poe’s life as an impoverished poet, trying to make a few bucks by composing detective fiction while fiercely criticizing the work of other writers. In one scene, the anguished Poe wagers that at least one person in a pub will recognize him as an author, best known for ‘The Raven.’ Cusack captures that desperation vividly enough to make you wish this was the real Poe story, which ‘The Raven’ onscreen leaves buried alive.”
Los Angeles Times: “‘The Raven’ stars John Cusack in a gothic thriller pulled from the tales of Edgar Allan Poe that regrettably falls prey to its grand and grisly ambitions — it’s neither grand nor grisly enough to seriously satisfy Poe-ish cravings for murder, mystery and literary allusions. More pulp fiction than macabre masterpiece, it is nevertheless a nifty idea screenwriters Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare have concocted for director James McTeigue.”
New York Daily News gave “The Raven” one star, noting, “What a ridiculous proposition ‘The Raven’ is. Cloaked in shadows and fog and scratching furiously at the corners of every murder mystery ever to darken a doily on PBS, this wannabe Sherlockian thriller is like a night spent at Madame Tussauds, watching mannequins strangle other mannequins.”