Director: James McTeigue
Writer: Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare
Cast: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, and Brenden Gleeson
Rated: R (gore, violence)
IMDb/trailer | Blu-ray/DVD at 20th Century Fox
Being a fan of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, I was naturally interested in the fictional tale of the last days of the iconic horror writer’s life. The film stars John Cusack as Poe, a natural choice with his dark features and ability capture dark and neurotic characters. Cusack never disappoints me even if the film itself isn’t great, he’s just one of those character actors that always delivers a performance.
The story follows Poe as he’s suddenly thrown into a sick and twisted game involving a murderer obsessed with Poe’s writing, so much to the point he models his brutal killings after Edgar’s stories. Things get personal when the killer kidnaps Poe’s love Emily (Alice Eve) and forces Poe to take part in his game in order to get her back. Poe works with inspector Fields (Luke Evans) to track down the killer before its too late.
There’s something cool about taking historical figures and making them dangerous and exciting heroes. Much like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the film has that kind of fantasy element that brings a special type of enjoyment due to it involving a real person. I think we want to believe that behind the scenes, they really were heroes. This film does a good job of building up Poe as a brilliant yet troubled genius who’s a natural detective.
Cusack seems natural as Poe, although his portrayal didn’t exactly meet my expectations. When I think of Edgar Allen Poe I always imagine a quiet, modest man that keeps mainly to himself. I could be way off, but that’s just how I would picture the man behind such dark and gruesome writings. Cusack’s Poe on the other hand is often boisterous and a bit full of himself. This could very well be accurate, but this was one of the few aspects of the film that caught me off guard and made it feel a bit over the top at times.
The film very much reminded me of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. from the pacing, set and costume designs, to the lead characters both self-aware know-it-alls who mask many of their personal demons. The movie also paints Poe as more of a detective than a writer. Whether or not Poe was ever really involved in murders or other real-life crimes resembling his stories, the film makes me want to believe he was.
I highly enjoyed this film when I saw it in the theater, and upon watching again on Blu-ray, I still do. I love the way the writing is incorporated into the story, and how it manages to be an original story while also tying in many real aspects of Poe’s life. Even though bits of the writing seemed to have been trying too hard to make Cusack’s Poe speak poetically the majority of the time, the film was very nicely played out and looked great. The story was even a nice mystery that worked well with the source material and made Edgar Allen Poe only seem that much cooler.