The Raven 2012 (2012)

Starring: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson, Alice Eve, Brendan Coyle, Pam Ferris, Sam Hazeldine

Directed by: James McTeigue

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Luke Evans as Detective Emmett Fields and John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven

When Edgar Allan Poe's short story 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' was published in 1941, it heralded the dawn of a new literary genre: detective fiction. So it's fitting, then, that in James (V for Vendetta) McTeigue's imagining of the last few days of the infamous writer's life, he should depict him embroiled in a serial killer/supersleuth mystery.

Nearly 250 years before Dr Hannibal Lecter set up his practice, there's a serial killer on the loose in Baltimore – and he's despatching his victims in the gruesome style of Poe's stories. This, of course, is no coincidence – it's personal. And when Poe's fiancée Emily (Alice Eve) is kidnapped, the clock starts ticking for the desperate writer. Aided by the stalwart Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans), he must solve the grisly clues leading to her location, as the sneaky killer skips through the shadows like the Phantom of the Opera, face muffled, hat pulled low, cape swirling.

A postmodern story then, but told in a refreshingly old fashioned way, with no ninjas, Zeppelins, steampunk weaponry or sweat-dripping slow-mo cluttering up the action. Instead, as befits the tale of one of America's most famous sons, it draws more from the gritty guts of the Wild West than the fog-obscured gloom of European gothic; more Deadwood than Sherlock Holmes.

Alice Eve as Emily in The Raven

Admittedly I was expecting more dark, morbid necromancy and less shoot 'em up thriller action, but if you're a fan of Poe you'll have to forgive the shortage of anorexic dead women and supernatural mumbo-jumbo and instead enjoy spotting the references to his work (and staying one step ahead of the clue solving process).

Even if you're not a fan, there's still lots to love about this movie. It looks great, the sets creaking with old world charm; John Cusack, the king of tortured fortysomethings, is splendid as the flighty, dissolute poet who finds a final purpose in battling mentally and physically for the woman he loves and Luke Evans and Brendan Gleeson (as Emily's irascible father) provide solid support. Oh, and the Misery-esque twist at the end is sheer, um, poetry...

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