Edgar Allen Poe was an American poet, writer, and literary critic. Best known for his short stories, Poe introduced his ghastly tales in ways that would captivate readers and filmmakers throughout history. The Raven, in particular, took the world by storm after its initial publication in 1845. In fact, the poem would be the inspiration behind several adaptations in the following decades. The latest is Christopher Hatton’s horror mystery, Raven's Hollow, that chronicles the secrets behind gruesome murders in upstate New York. While lacking in style and substance, Raven’s Hollowhas just enough entertainment value to keep viewers intrigued.
The year is 1830, the weather’s chilly, and West Point is nearing a season of mystery, murder, and terror. West Point military Cadet Edgar Allan Poe (William Moseley) and four other companions venture across upstate New York to partake in their training exercises. Upon traversing an open field, Poe and his comrades find a young man disemboweled on a bizarre wooden rack. With his dying breath, he whispers “the Raven” as the cause for his untimely demise. The investigation leads the young cadets to a forgotten community, which they believe is guarding sinister secrets. Unafraid of what awaits them, Poe is determined to uncover the truth, even if that means coming face to face with the horrifying creature that may haunt him forever.
The plot to writer-director Christopher Hatton’s story may be intriguing by nature of Edgar Allen Poe’s original work, but Raven’s Hollow lacks the substance to enable audiences to fully immerse themselves within the narrative. What the script reveals about Poe and his comrades is limited to their individual personalities when it comes to solving the mysteries of the forgotten neighborhood. Some don’t believe the legend of “the Raven,” while a few others think it’s best to escape the town while they still have a chance. Even Moseley’s Poe has little depth to his character, with dedication and curiosity being at the forefront of his traits. None of these discoveries are enough to get viewers to care about what happens to them, and the film suffers for it.
Thinly-written characters and late reveals aside, the movie struggles to maintain the energy and frightening mood established in its first act to overcome its pacing issues. To make matters worse, screenwriters Hatton and Reeves drizzle in a hint of a romance between Cadet Poe and a young townswoman named Charlotte Ingram (Melanie Zanetti). One might expect a story whose central plot of a mysterious creature wreaking havoc on a small community is enough to advance the narrative, but not in Raven’s Hollow. While interesting on its own (mostly because Ingram appears to know more than she’s letting on), nothing comes of this almost-romance. Instead, it feels somewhat contrived, especially since it’s abrupt and misleading by the film’s end.
Despite all that has been said about Hatton’s horror mystery, there’s plenty within the material to keep viewers’ attention. Namely, members of the cast do everything they can to keep this script afloat, providing the entertainment needed through their performances. Fans of Edgar Allen Poe’s work may also find themselves fascinated with the attempt to incorporate Poe’s namesake and his work in one. There are certain liberties taken with the original story, and the film’s end leaves much to be desired. But getting the answers to questions via Poe’s character provides an enjoyable watching experience in the end.
Raven’s Hollow joins the many adaptations of The Raven, in which filmmakers have found difficulty executing the themes of the original while offering new ways to tell the story. Thinly written characters and side plots tend to keep the script in its bind, making the story feel longer than its 98-minute runtime. In spite of these elements, Hatton offers an engaging approach towards his storytelling. By concentrating on the intrigue and horror elements within his feature, the end result isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty of fun to be had throughout to make the watching experience an enjoyable one.
Raven's Hollowreleased on Shudder Thursday, September 22. The film is 98 minutes long and is not rated.