A thriller unable to raise any interest



01:09 GMT, 9 March 2012

The Raven (15)

No Stars. Verdict: Wrong bird

The Raven is an utterly dreadful attempt at a costume thriller by the flashy, heavy-handed, vacuous director James McTeigue, whose previous crimes against cinema have been V For Vendetta and Ninja Assassin.

John Cusack ill-advisedly signed up to play famed author and alcoholic Edgar Allan Poe, who tries to help a bland Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) track down a serial killer committing copycat murders based on Poe’s stories.

The author is simultaneously wooing a beautiful but boring blonde (Alice Eve), who’s the daughter of a truculent military man (Brendan Gleeson).

John Cusack plays the author Edgar Allan Poe in the thriller The Raven

John Cusack plays the author Edgar Allan Poe in the thriller The Raven

The murders are astonishingly grisly and include the sawing-in- half of a critic. Yikes! And various other crimes bring back memories of earlier, much better films starring Vincent Price.

But where their director Roger Corman would have approached this idea with humour and glee, McTeigue treats it with reverence — as if he’s telling us the world would be a lot cooler if it was inhabited by men in black capes walking through swirling fog.

The script, by Hannah Shakespeare and Ben Livingston, is atrocious. It is never possible to summon up much interest in the identity of the killer — still less his motivation.

When he does ultimately reveal himself, the only possible reaction is: ‘Er, who are you again’

Cusack acts (and I use the term loosely) as if heavily sedated, and the supporting cast is equally dreary, with the normally excellent Gleeson phoning in a worst-of-career performance.

Cusack has been publicising the film with the revelation that he suffered dreadful sleeping problems while making it.

No such difficulties are likely to be experienced by the audience.

The title echoes Poe’s most famous poem – and the only sensible response is a horrified cry of ‘Nevermore!’