Tepid Edgar Allen Poe Riff Raven’s Hollow (2022) Fails to Conjure Up the Spirit of Its Inspiration
Title: Raven’s Hollow
First Non-Festival Release: September 22, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Christopher Hatton
Writer: Christopher Hatton, Chuck Reeves
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Starring: William Moseley, Melanie Zanetti, Kate Dickie
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Among the few instances of horror literature peppered into high school curriculums, Edgar Allen Poe’s work has lived on for generations, inspiring many of horror creators with his dark and dour stories of betrayal, romance, and murder. Raven’s Hollow is a riff on Poe’s life that posits what would happen if he were thrust in the center of a bizarre and macabre story.
Leading a group of fellow West Point cadets, Edgar Allen Poe (William Moseley) discovers the mangled body of a young man strung out as a scarecrow in the middle of a field. After some debate, the crew saunters into town with the body in tow asking the townsfolk if they know him. When they are met with chilly silence, the group decide to investigate and give the man a proper burial fully unaware of the horror that awaits them.
Middling supernatural thriller Raven’s Hollow squanders interesting premise with flaccid scares and confounding plot.
Raven’s Hollow sets the stage with a familiar introduction to our band of heroes. Their introduction to the quaint township, the namesake of the film, is met with initial terror and distrust. Between the first violent murder and their run in with an entire town of suspiciously silent and xenophobic town, the crew is aching to leave. Poe’s refusal to leave sets in motion the crew’s commitment to giving the unknown man a proper burial. The whispers of a dark paranormal force holding the town hostage adds to the dread gradually building in the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, things begin to get silly as the film teeters into its second act. The film devolves into a plodding mystery where Poe meanders about the town and its outskirts while courting a mysterious woman named Charlotte (Melanie Zanetti). As bodies of his fellow cadets pile up, Poe and the gang find themselves unable to leave the cursed town. This pushes them to get to the bottom of the mystery, but their efforts keep failing thanks to their poor detective work. It falls apart as the cast thins out by going off on their own before Poe is confronted with the predictable reveal of the villain behind the supernatural forces of Raven’s Hollow.
While its story gets muddled in the murky details of its supernatural horror, Raven’s Hollow absolutely kills it in terms of its gothic setting. Filmed in a consistently dark and lurid manner, the set design team behind Raven’s Hollow deserves all their flowers. Each set piece and location beautifully ties together this rich aesthetic reminiscent of Poe’s work that clearly makes it evident that location setting was a main priority of the crew. From its creaky wooden homes, spartan churches, and lush woods, the film is visually engaging and true to its material.
This extends into its reliance on creature effects. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is its main antagonist, that is smartly kept in the shadows until the second half of the film. Admittedly, the cgi gets distracting but the design of the entity itself is truly inspired. There is something truly exciting and terrifying about the villain, especially in the way it moves and consumes its prey. Fluid in nature yet still corporeal, the antagonist only wears its welcome after it is overexposed throughout the film’s third act.
By the time it ends, Raven’s Hollow is a forgettable entry in the gothic horror subgenre that gets frustratingly close to achieving its vision. Its commitment to aesthetics paints the right picture for an Edgar Allen Poe work but isn’t enough to save it from its predictable story or mediocre performances. A hokey reveal and disjointed mystery make the film difficult to recommend to true Poe aficionados. While there is always a demand for period horror films, Raven’s Hollow will not be one that will be worth the sacrifice for everyone, but for some, it might be enough to keep the spirit of the subgenre going.
Overall Score? 5.5/10