Raven's Hollow


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Raven's Hollow
"It’s hard to imagine that [Poe] would have been anything other that appalled by this shoddy exercise in pilfering the most superficial aspects of his work." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

Once upon a midnight dreary as I slumbered, worn and weary, at once I beheld an eerie film I had not seen before. Only this, and nothing more.

There really isn’t much more to Raven’s Hollow.

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If there’s one thing that Edgar Allan Poe really excelled at, it was structure. He understood the rhythms not only of verse but of storytelling, approaching it very deliberately and precisely, and it’s hard to imagine that he would have been anything other that appalled by this shoddy exercise in pilfering the most superficial aspects of his work. The attempt to credit him by working him into it as a character is still more of an embarrassment, partly because the writers have clearly made no effort to connect with his personality (despite the existence of a vast archive of materials which might help them to do so), and partly because the actor portraying him (William Moseley) is a charisma free zone.

That particular subset of fantasy (and science fiction) which concerns itself with imagining exotic inspirations for great artists and inventors always leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. It’s worse still when the subject is a writer, whose own talent is thus belittled by lesser writers. Here they highlight the gulf between themselves and him still further by liberally borrowing lines from a number of his works, sometimes with no apparent sign of having understood them, and putting them in the mouth of an actor who can barely articulate them, let alone give them any weight or relevance in their new context. The resulting impression is of a young wannabe-goth desperately trying to impress and getting everything wrong, and he’s doing it for the most tedious of reasons, too: to try to impress a corseted goth chick who is way out of his league.

This is Charlotte (Melanie Zanetti) who lives in a remote New England village with her mother (Kate Dickie, whose hammed up performance provides the film’s only entertainment value) and the mysterious Usher (Oberon KA Adjepong). Poe arrives there as part of a group of young cadets who have been shocked to discover a dying man strung up like a scarecrow. Nobody who watches horror films about remote villages will be in the slightest doubt how the man got into that situation, but we are obliged to keep plodding along with the cadets nonetheless as if there were some kind of mystery to explore. Usher tries to warn them. Racism makes them disinclined to listen. They argue with each other a lot, wanting to make arrests or just go home. Watching this in a cinema, you might well empathise.

There is talk of a mysterious raven, a spirit haunting the town, and hints that the dying man might have been a sacrifice. Reference is made to a missing girl called Lenore (of course). An itinerant gravedigger uses opium and his dreams seem to be infectious. There are rituals and funerals and long black dresses and it’s all used to obfuscate, rather than substantiate, the plot. One gets the impression that this was changed halfway through the writing process without anybody bothering to go back and rewrite the first half. Michael Rizzi’s moody cinematography lends the film some atmosphere, but it’s all undermined by the incoherent narrative.

Poe’s Raven is all about minimalism in horror – how nothing more than a bird capable of a single utterance can drive a man to madness. This film is the opposite, scooping up everything in the Halloween spooky aisle and hurling it at the screen in the vain hope that something will stick. It might drive you to madness, but not at all in the manner intended. Let us speak of it nevermore.

Reviewed on: 24 Sep 2022
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Raven's Hollow packshot
West Point cadet Edgar Allan Poe and four other cadets on a training exercise in upstate New York are drawn by a gruesome discovery into a forgotten community.

Director: Christopher Hatton

Writer: Christopher Hatton, Chuck Reeves

Starring: Melanie Zanetti, William Moseley, Kate Dickie, David Hayman, Callum Woodhouse, Callum McGowan

Year: 2022

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: UK


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