Monday, October 22, 2012

The Raven (2012) dir James McTeigue

One of my horror movie buddies and I watched this about two weeks ago and we were both kind of surprised.  At the end of it we both said, "Huh, that was a lot better than I expected."

Hell of a way to start a review, right?  I guess I have developed a sort of mentality (flawed, I admit) in this age viral marketing, glancing at metacritic reviews, and only allowing myself to see one trailer for a movie in which I feel I've got a pretty good handle on a movie before I sit down to watch it.  Frankly, this is a shame because it's rare for me to be surprised by movies or my expectations are such that I don't really give a movie the viewing it deserves (for example my first viewing of The Innkeepers wasn't glowing but after a second viewing I enjoyed it a lot more - though it's still not as top shelf as House of the Devil).

I figured The Raven was going to be a period piece thriller with John Cusack being John Cusack and put it on the back burner of my faulty memory until I saw it for rent and figured, "Meh, why not?"

It's actually pretty good.  I wasn't blown away but I was actively engaged (considering some movies I've seen recently that's pretty fucking important) and there were a couple of moments of real suspense.  Cusack is one of those actors who I have a hard time forgetting that I'm watching Cusack but his performance was such that I got caught up in the story and action and forgot that I was watching Cusack (if this sounds absurd think of how many movies you've seen Johnny Depp in and there's no suspension of disbelief because it's always Johnny Depp.  You're often conscious of the actor and not the role they are playing).

There really aren't any flaws to The Raven - except that it suffers from the "too dark" thing some movies have these days.  To clarify, maybe it's the HD factor but it seems like a lot of movies - particularly period pieces are just shot in the Fincher school.  Darkness and shadow are key elements of suspense/horror/thriller etc but there seems to be a lack of richness and depth to the darkness.  For example, Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) is drenched in shadow but you never find yourself squinting at the screen.  Neil Marshall's The Descent (2005) takes place in a realm of total darkness but he creates a deep sense of claustrophobia and fragility of humanity with his use of negative space.  The Raven is just a dark movie.

Cinematography nitpick aside, it's a solid weekday evening movie.  There are thrills and chills and yeah the plot twist isn't that shocking but it's worth watching (it's a fuckload better than From Hell).

Oh, another nit pick - completely inconsequential - the end credits are completely incongruous from the rest of the movie.  Seriously.  While they are really sharp, if they were played at the beginning of the movie you'd think the movie was about Edgar Allan Poe as "The Raven" a Victorian superhero who battled supernatural baddies by night and wrote about them by day.  Actually, that'd  be kind of cool.  Well, cooler than this Abe Lincoln fighting vampires bullshit.  Ha!  Just had an image in my head of Poe growling "Nevermore" before cold cocking some goon.*

*If I see this in a movie or on the internet in the next few months I expect full credit.

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