It may be the year of dark and chilly genre flicks.  The Woman in Black, reviewed here, had some of the best atmosphere of any film in recent memory.  Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, previewed here and coming this June, also features a dark and spooky vibe.  If there is something enticing about the forthcoming The Raven from the new trailer, it is mood.  The filmmakers appear to have nailed the “once upon a midnight dreary.”  Check out this new trailer–the film’s UK preview, just released:

This is a great lesson in what a good editor with some marketing sense can do when he/she knows how to do the job right.  Compare the UK version above with the U.S. version of the trailer:

The UK trailer is pretty ho-hum.  Yet the U.S. trailer makes this one look pretty exciting.  Why would you bother releasing the UK trailer when the U.S. trailer is so well done?

Like Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, The Raven takes a real-life character and places him in a new, fictionalized, alternate history adventure.  The challenge will be that not only does the viewer need to suspend disbelief to participate in this cinematic work of fiction, the viewer is forced to put aside his or her assumptions about the historical figure.  The harder task may be for the filmmakers addressing a wild rail and vampire splittin’ Abraham Lincoln.  But Edgar Allan Poe as a bit Sherlock Holmes and a bit less-than-willing-participant Ichabod Crane?  That doesn’t seem too far-fetched for the avid fantasy viewer.

The casting of John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe is interesting.  Poe is always shown to be far less outgoing than Cusack’s typical character.  To his credit Cusack is often grouped with some of the finest “serious” dramatic actors.  Just look at his performances in Eight Men Out, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Bullets Over Broadway.  John Cusack is in a rare league of people we like and want to see more of, like Matthew Broderick, and from the same era.  But like Broderick, his choice of film projects is often a letdown (The Road to Wellville, Con Air, 2012), even if his performances are well done.  Cusack was great fun in Say Anything, The Grifters, Grosse Point Blank, High Fidelity, Serendipity, Igor and even Hot Tub Time Machine.  But where his movies seem to disappoint are his ventures into horror, such as Identity and 1408.  Can Cusack give us a good horror thriller with The Raven?

A major marketing plus is the reference that this is directed by James McTeague, who also directed the brilliant V for Vendetta. (although he also worked on Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, the Matrix films and Speed Racer).

The trailer feels a bit like From Hell, Sleepy Hollow, and Sweeney Todd, all based on historic stories.  Makes you wonder why Johnny Depp isn’t in this one, doesn’t it?  One concern is the rating notation, which I usually ignore, but Rated R for “bloody violence and grisly images” and some of the images in the trailers probably says all we need to know, and would certainly group The Raven with those three grisly concept films.

The Raven hits theaters on April 27.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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