Horror

‘Raven’s Hollow’ Review – Moody Period Piece Details Inspiration for Poe’s ‘The Raven’

Writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is known for his short stories and poetry dealing with mysteries and the macabre. In the U.S., he is regarded as a dominant figure of Romanticism and is considered to be the inventor of the detective fiction genre, as well as a major contributor to science fiction. Poe’s most famous poem, The Raven, was published in 1845 and describes an agitated lover’s painfully slow descent into madness after he is visited by a talking raven. While The Raven was reportedly inspired by Charles Dickens’ real-life pet raven, the film Raven’s Hollow attempts to tell the story of Poe’s inspiration for the poem as a supernatural incident the young writer experienced, but does so with arguable results.

Written by Christopher Hatton and Chuck Reeves and directed by Hatton, Raven’s Hollow leaves a lot of questions surrounding the creature in the story unanswered, but still manages to be an entertaining account of what Poe’s early life before he became a well-known writer could have been like.

Raven’s Hollow is set in the fall of 1830 and follows West Point cadet Edgar Allan Poe, played by William Moseley (The Royals), and four other cadets, who make a grisly discovery while taking part in a training exercise in upstate New York. While riding their horses, the cadets come across a man displayed in a manner which resembles a scarecrow and making the scene even more gruesome, the man has been disemboweled. Much to the cadets’ surprise, the man is still barely alive, and he manages to utter the word, “raven,” before dying.

Hoping to learn the identity of the man and notify his family, the cadets take the body with them and continue riding until they reach a village called Raven’s Hollow. Based on his last word, the cadets are convinced this was where the dead man lived, but when they question the villagers, who are holding a funeral, they tell the cadets they have never seen the man before. Despite the fact the villagers insist they don’t know the dead man, Poe thinks they are hiding something. When they offer the cadets dinner and lodging for the night, the men agree to stay.

Raven’s Hollow – Photo Credit: Shudder

One resident of Raven’s Hollow, Charlotte Ingram, played by Melanie Zanetti (Love and Monsters), is friendly and attempts to make the cadets feel welcome and comfortable during their stay, but her mother Elizabet, played by Kate Dickie (Prometheus), makes it clear she does not want them there. A stable hand, who introduces himself as Usher (Oberon K.A. Adjepong), an obvious nod to Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher, warns the cadets that if they don’t leave that night the entity which inhabits Raven’s Hollow will kill them all. Usher tells them the villagers are unsure if the being is a spirit or the devil, but that it hunts the people of the community. When Poe and his fellow cadets decide to stay the night anyway, one of the men goes missing and one by one people meet with ghastly deaths. Soon, there is a trail of body parts and Poe is doing detective work to figure out if something otherworldly is responsible or if there is a murderer in Raven’s Hollow.

The overcast, gloomy atmosphere that permeates every frame of Raven’s Hollow, as well as Robert Ellis-Geiger’s score, lend a tangible feeling of dread to the film. Although as the film progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to consider the story as possible inspiration for the poem The Raven, William Moseley’s brooding portrayal of Edgar Allan Poe is noteworthy. It is suggested that the being tormenting Raven’s Hollow is a shapeshifter, but the lackluster CGI and inability to settle on any consistent creature design do not work in the film’s favor. Among the more believable and historically accurate details of the film are Poe’s use of opium, which he takes hoping it will help him see the true form of the creature, and his apparent descent into near madness in the final act.

Raven’s Hollow – Photo Credit: Shudder

While Raven’s Hollow suffers from poorly designed creature effects and dull CGI, the film does feature some great performances, especially from Moseley as Poe and Dickie as the sinister Elizabet. Even though it is unclear if references to Poe’s work such as characters named Usher and Lenore and even a few ravens are intended to be clever or tongue-in-cheek, Raven’s Hollow does succeed at being a moody, macabre, and overall enjoyable period piece.

Raven’s Hollow will be available exclusively on AMC Networks’ premium streaming service Shudder on September 22.

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