As a literary figure, Edgar Allan Poe works have been a popular source for film adaptations for nearly a century, but what about films about the man himself? Raven’s Hollow, which landed last week on Shudder, attempts to mine a part of Edgar Allan Poe’s biography for a fantasy horror film.
Does this Shudder Original evoke the master of suspense and horror, or does it end up lacking?
Raven’s Hollow (2022)
The 2022 horror thriller, Raven’s Hollow, follows a group of West Point cadets, including a young Edgar Allan Poe, who find a dying man lashed up in a field during a routine training exercise, leading them to the secretive and dready community of Raven’s Hollow. Soon they will find themselves involved in a mystery that threatens to take out every cadet.
Raven’s Hollow is the directorial effort of Christopher Hatton who co-wrote the story with Chuck Reeves, loosely adapted from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and elements of Poe’s biography. The film stars William Mosely as Poe, with Melanie Zanetti, David Hayman, Kate Dickie, and Oberon K.A. Adjepong.
What Worked with Raven’s Hollow
The film in concept seemed interesting, but the execution was lacking. The idea of a young Edgar Allan Poe as a West Point cadet engaged in some mystery that resulted in his being thrown out of the army is an interesting one, but the film didn’t quite stick the landing. With that said, there are a couple of bright spots.
While the cast as a whole is fine, the real standouts are Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones) who plays Elizabet Ingram and Oberon K.A. Adjepong (The Many Saints of Newark) as Usher. They have the more interesting roles as the secondary cast and their performances feel appropriately grounded for the situation. I should also mention the rather over-the-top characterisation of Dr. Garret, as played by David Hayman. Hayman plays Garret as a broader figure, but it suits the tone, reminding me of the tone of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.
What About Poe, Though?
As for the lead, William Mosely (The Royals), I found him effective. I suppose. The Edgar Allan Poe of this film has no real character beyond that of protagonist. He doesn’t have much to work with, and the fact he keeps getting called Poe, when historically his army surname was Perry, indicates the film is trying to brute-force the idea he is Edgar Allan Poe into viewer’s minds without showing the traits that actually made the man who he was. It also didn’t help that the West Point cadets as a whole kind of ran together and at times I lost track of who was who as a few of them have striking similarity to one another in looks and about one personality stretched across four men.
Visually, some of the scenery of Latvia, where most of the location shoot took place, can be quite nice, and I found most of Michael Rizzi’s cinematography to be good. It’s just a shame that the color grading and lighting just made everything look flat, cold, and grey.
What Didn’t Work
I have a number of problems with the film that can probably be classified into three camps: accuracy, aesthetics, and storytelling, and I found significant issues in all three areas.
Raven’s Hollow is a fantasy film that tries to forge an event in the life of it’s version of Poe that would inspire him to take up the pen later in life. I don’t have an issue with that, either. It can be a fun storytelling conceit, but the films tone doesn’t really evoke Poes writings at all, and there are some elements of his biography that go ignored to service the story. Such references grow doubly-insulting when the film’s references to his eventual canon are ham-handed.
The film is also dreary to look at. For something gothic that would make sense, but this film is so grey and flatly lit that it is visually exhausting. The film’s best, most colorful moment comes from a splash of blood on a glass window that actually provides some thematic color to a scene. That was the only time this happened, however leaving the majority of the runtime a tiring grey and black screen. Poe can be visually interesting… look at any of Vincent Price‘s Poe films.
Lastly, the story is a mess. The central mystery is non-sensical and doesn’t offer many shocks as people are picked off in a creepy village that exists solely to whittle down the cast. The legend that comprises the entity at the center of the film also has seemingly nonsensical and the resolution is dramatically inert.
Final Impressions of Raven’s Hollow
Raven’s Hollow didn’t work for me for a few reasons, namely how little I cared for the story and the connections to the works of Edgar Allan Poe feel so cursory and lacking any depth. In truth, there seemed little connection to the West Point cadet of the film and the man who would come to write some of America’s greatest gothic literature. The film is also overly drab and offers a bizaar and nonsensical series of events it presents as a “mystery.”
I cannot recommend Shudder‘s Raven’s Hollow at all, even for the very few interesting moments that pop up in the film’s 1 hour 38 minute runtime.(1.5 / 5)
Want A Better Slice of Poe? (Sponsored)
If you are looking for a better Edgar Allan Poe experience overall, might we suggest a copy of 1961’s The Pit and the Pendulum with Vincent Price? it’s a wonderful adaptation of Poe’s story directed by Roger Corman. Snatch a blu-ray for yourself and use our sponsored link to help support Haunted MTL.