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The Raven (Blu-ray Review)

John Cusack and Luke Evans star in this bloodcurdling tale of terror that’s as dark and haunting as the legendary master of the macabre who inspired it – Edgar Allan Poe. Baltimore, 1849. While investigating a horrific double murder, police detective Emmett Fields (Evans) makes a starling discovery: the killer’s methods mirror the twisted writings of Edgar Allan Poe (Cusack). Suspecting Poe at first, Fields ultimately enlists the writer’s help to stop future attacks. But in this deadly game of cat and mouse, the stakes are raised with each gruesome slaying as the pair races to catch a madman before he brings every one of Poe’s shocking stories to chilling life…and death.

Film  

The Raven is a fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack), who died under very mysterious circumstances. In this telling of Poe’s life, he’s a brilliant writer, poet, broke, and an alcoholic. Someone has also taken to killing people by very gruesome means. Elaborate traps and devices have also been used in the horrific killings. What separates these murders from anything else that’s ever happened in Baltimore, circa 1849, is that these traps and dealings have been taken right out of the pages of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories.

Heading up the investigation is Detective Emmett Fields, who brings an analytical aesthetic to the investigation will leave no stone unturned, even if it means accusing Poe of the crimes. Poe also has personal problems of his own. He’s in love with the beautiful Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), daughter of the rich and powerful Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson). The Captain hates Poe’s guts with a passion, but Emily is deeply in love with him. It will all culminate in despair, because the killer has set his sights on Emily and Poe.

Okay, so the majority of people hated The Raven and it bombed in theaters when it was released earlier this year. I don’t understand why. I’ve seen worst this year and can assure you that The Raven is not a bad film. The film reminded me of From Hell and Se7en – both are superior films of course, but they do share some similarities. The Raven is a period piece and the clues and traps are very elaborate. Director James McTiegue returns from directing Ninja Assassin and dives right into this material. He weaves the story around and doesn’t mind showing you (in graphic detail) the extent of the killer’s madness. I appreciated that. A PG-13 film of this nature would have been atrocious, so it’s fitting that they stuck to a hard R in terms of rating.

The cast was terrific, but in the back of my mind, I honestly think that the majority of the movie going audience this was originally aimed that don’t or didn’t even know who Edgar Allan Poe was. Whether they have or haven’t read his material or just didn’t care about the film in general is all left to speculation. I really do hope that people flock to the Blu-ray, because The Raven makes some of the more recent flock of films that folks seem to be going goo-goo for look like high art. I’m not going to say it’s a great film, but it was pretty damn good and highly entertaining, in my opinion. Maybe I can convince you if I tell you the Blu-ray has impressive video, sound, and special features? Keep reading and find out.

“Sleep, those little slices of death; Oh how I loathe them.”

-Edgar Allan Poe

Video  

The Raven is presented in 1080p, 2.40:1 widescreen. The Raven is a period piece, a very dark period piece, so it comes as no shock that the Blu-ray handles the darkness rather well. Black levels are extremely solid, deep, inky, and never crush. Flesh tones are exquisite, with fine detail at its very best, especially during close ups. Softness and bits of DNR do spring up here and there, but that’s usually only seen during scenes of heavy mist, fog, and clouds. Still, The Raven on Blu-ray looks pretty damn good.

 Audio 

The Raven is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Dialogue sounds clear and crisp, without coming off as harsh. Bass levels are deep, and the LFE channel handles the low rumblings rather well. It’s a very active soundtrack and there’s plenty of activity. The sound field gets creative during the more elaborate scenes that feature the traps along with the plentiful scenes of horseback riding and what not. Surround channels handle the ambient sounds really well and give it that added layer of depth. Watch your six.

Extras  

The Raven is fully loaded in terms of extras and supplements. We get a packed commentary track with director James McTiegue and several producers, deleted and extended scenes, featurettes, etc. It’s a standard affair, but I am starting to tire of featurettes that originally started out as a feature length featurette, but was chopped into several in order to make it look like there’s more to it. Fortunately, the strong audio commentary track and excised scenes make up for it.

  • The Raven Guts – Bringing Death to Life
  • The Madness, Misery and Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe
  • Behind the Beauty and Horror
  • The Raven Presents John Cusack & James McTiegue
  • Music for The Raven: The Team
  • Audio Commentary by the Director and Producers

Summary 

I seriously don’t get why this film bombed or was hated as much as it was. Maybe nowadays Edgar Allan Poe is obscure and the majority of people today don’t know or just don’t care about a film that fictionalizes his life like that. The Blu-ray is has above average video and a great soundtrack. The extras are also pretty good. I could have gone for some more supplements dealing with the real Poe, but what we got was okay. The Raven deserves a second shot at life on Blu-ray. “Quote the Blu-ray, nevermore.”

 

Order The Raven on Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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