Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // $26.98 // February 6, 2007
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted February 12, 2007
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One recurring difficulty within films nowadays is the existence of a quality idea inside a poorly executed shell. Though it isn't of the most unique thoughts in cinematic history, Ulli Lommel's The Raven carries at least a bit of potential. Only once the gears start rolling does attention seem lost. The Raven, instead of feeling like an ethereal mystery capped with suspense, comes across more like a venture into a gothic edition of a dramatic reality show that's got an odd series of eliminations. Though Edgar Allen Poe's name adorns the title, this production carries no similarities in plot, depth, or brooding splendor to that of the author's gripping poem.

The Film:

Lenore (Jillian Swanson) is an orphan in a nunnery who persistently delves deep into Edgar Allen Poe's unnerving poem, "The Raven". Furthermore, her grandfather continuously reads Poe's works to her while she drifts to sleep at night. Through this steady stream of gothic literature poured into her mind, Lenore develops a darker, more "tangible" passion for the author. Consistently mentioned in his prose, Eleanore sees herself as Poe's "lenore", his loving inspiration and muse. She lives with this passion for years and years.

Now twenty-five, Lenore sings in a gothic rock band with people very similar to herself. Strangely, her friends start to disappear from her life. Trailing down from her band mates to her confidants, Lenore's support structure starts to vanish. Throughout these disappearances, Lenore consistently has dreams about a blade-adorned man named Skinner who viciously hunts down each of her friends in murderous carnage. It is within this mysterious killer that she must find a way to grasp the love of her long deceased author's heart. Through Lenore's nightmarish dream realm, the point of realism starts to fade.

So too, sadly, fades any curiosity to discover what lies ahead in The Raven. Films that take place amidst a world of dreams hold the capacity to entrance and pleasantly confuse the viewer. It is within a frail script and ill-conceived characters that this interest is quickly extinguished. The Raven meddles and meanders far too long without supplying any true elements of intrigue. Inside the first moments of the film, murderous activity adorns the screen that makes very little sense. At the conclusion, after suffering through a gauntlet of severely juvenile murder sequences, this beginning still doesn't reveal much comprehension. Though much is said to decode this odd mystery, the resolution remains exceedingly muddy. Either that, or there isn't enough vested care within the film to fully grasp the winding finale.

Though simple in plot, it's within this convoluted nature of Lenore's dreams that quickly sparks confusion. This little story of vanishing acquaintances attempts to move forward similar to a car on the last fumes in the tank; sputtering, seeming to potentially possess life, though ultimately coming to a quick and early halt. Almost none of the victims within this film demand or deserve any care or consideration for their fate. The only one who grips a smidge of this care is Lenore. Jillian Swanson's Lenore conveys much more through her eyes and facial expressions than any words that escape her lips. Though fighting like a fish out of water in The Raven, Swanson possesses a gripping stage presence that could be quite formidable if provided with a strong character. Swanson's presence is the most appealing element of this film, whether thematic or visual.

Very low budget in design, this film's photography instantly shoves away any visual interest amidst a blur of oddly filmed and edited sequences. Immediately, the film's visual style embodies the same presence to that of a television reality program. Small-budget films, even gothic slasher mysteries, hold the capacity to embrace attractiveness. The Raven, resting atop a graveyard of ill-conceived dialogue and a murky concept, failed to deliver a counteractive dose of necessary aesthetical goods.

Underneath this shell of The Raven lies a potentially intriguing flick. With some dialogue and plot reconstruction, this tale could've flickered with a spark of interest. However, amidst this production with an unappealing array of visuals, Lommel's The Raven gets lost in a dark fog early and doesnt manage to escape.

The DVD:

Lionsgate has presented The Raven in a single-disc keepcase with quite attrative coverart and discart.

The Video:

The Raven is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen presentation. From the source, this visual appearance seemed sufficient in detail. The handheld camera cinematography appeared as natural as the quality possibly can. Black levels weren't especially strong, but the rest of the color palette seemed adequate.

The Audio:

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is serviceable. Possessing some crisp sound effects here and there, the track packs a little bit of punch during these mild instances. The clarity of voices, however, is a mixed bag. Most of the time, the dialogue was perfectly clear; other times, some of the text sounded muffled and difficult to understand. Such a film driven by dialogue should be much crisper in audio, though it did still manage to do the job.

The Extras:

Only a Scene Selection and Trailer Gallery are included.

Final Thoughts:

Sadly, The Raven let a decent concept fizzle and fade rapidly amongst inadequately conceived dialogue, an underdeveloped plot, and a lackluster visual conception. Fans of low-budget horror movies might grab a speck of interest through the very mildly amusing plot. However, most will find this anemic production doesn't quite deliver. Skip It.

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