Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Raven’s Hollow, on Shudder

The truth is Edgar Allan Poe was not the hopelessly dissolute basket case he is so often cracked-up to have been. Unfortunately, the first biography of Poe was written by his bitterest literary rival, but it set the tone for most that followed. Seriously people, start checking your sources. During the early days of his enrollment at West Point, Poe was naturally seen as a leader, despite his awkwardness. However, his training will not prepare him for the supernatural evil he and his men encounter during a training excursion in Christopher Hatton’s Raven’s Hollow, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

As part of a survival-foraging exercise, Poe and four fellow cadets are roaming around upstate New York to prove that they can, until they find a man brutally strung-up in an apparent ritual sacrifice. He only speaks one word before dying: “Raven.” Rather logically, they infer he meant Raven’s Hallow when they chance across the nearby town. However, the townspeople are so inhospitable and so unconvincing protesting their ignorance, they arouse the suspicion of the cadets, even including the ones that do not want to get involved.

Therefore, Poe decides they should stay the night to investigate, even though the innkeeper Elizabet Ingram is ironically the least welcoming of the lot. On the other hand, she has a much friendlier daughter, whom Poe wouldn’t mind questioning at length. To make matters weirder, Usher, the inn’s stableman, warns them to leave while they still can.

You heard that name correct. There is also a Lenore, but Poe is told she was lost long before they arrived. Supposedly, she was taken by the Pagan demonic monster that terrorizes the town, which they call the “Raven.”

Hatton and screenwriter Chuck Reeves do a nice job of dropping meaningful Poe references without it turning into a distracting compulsion. There is also a third act explanation for his drug addiction that actually makes a lot of sense within the context of the film. The film looks appealingly Gothic, very much akin to the look of many prior
Sleepy Hollow adaptations, which makes it a dramatic departure from Hatton’s previous films, such as Battle of the Damned.

William Moseley (who was young Peter Pevensie in the
Narnia films) hits the right notes as Poe: a little sensitive and a little aloof, but still potential officer material. He even has some decent buddy-camaraderie with Callum Woodhouse (Tristan Farnon in the current All Creatures Great and Small), as Will Taylor, the next most sympathetic cadet. Kate Dickie, who is becoming a mystery/horror specialist, is all kinds of creepy as Ingram, while the design of the Raven monster is also really eerie-looking.

intelligently combines folk and gothic horror elements, while still reflecting the early Nineteenth Century themes and mindsets of its characters. It is the kind of horror film that relies more on mood and period trappings than gore, but the Raven is a pretty effective monster. Recommended for Poe fans, Raven’s Hollow starts streaming tomorrow (9/22) on Shudder.