Directed by: Christopher Hatton
Written by: Christopher Hatton, Chuck Reeves
Starring: William Moseley, Melanie Zanetti, Kate Dickie, David Hayman, Callum Woodhouse
Film Review by: Darren Tilby
The works of Edgar Allan Poe have resonated throughout the years with creatives from all walks of life: artists, writers, musicians, and, of course, filmmakers have all succumbed to the charm of Poe’s distinct brand of horror-laden romanticism. Christopher Hatton's Raven's Hollow is among the latest cinematic offerings in this vein.
We’re introduced to Edgar Allan Poe (William Moseley) and four other West Point cadets on a training exercise in upstate New York. On their travels, they discover a young man tied to a wooden rack and disembowelled. With his last breath, he utters the word ‘Raven’. Intrigued by this discovery, Poe heads an investigation to uncover the perpetrators of this ritualistic killing. The investigation leads the cadets to a mysterious and isolated community, which they believe knows more than it’s letting on.
Raven's Hollow is a film that wears its inspiration on its sleeve, with Hatton actively attempting to link the events in his story to Poe's literary works, creating some interesting ideas in the process – themes of isolation, trauma and lost love are prevalent throughout Raven’s Hollow. The connection to Poe's literature is what's most likely to draw in a prospective audience (myself included) and, at a surface level at least, writers Chuck Reeves and Christopher Hatton provided enough plot intrigue to keep me engaged throughout most of the film's 98-minute runtime.
Nevertheless, enjoyment is only surface level, and Raven's Hollow very quickly begins to suffer from its lack of depth. A forgettable cast of one-dimensional characters (despite some memorable performances from the likes of Kate Dickie and David Hayman), particularly among the group of cadets, fails to develop any kind of emotional connection to the characters or the proceeding horror that befalls them. This had an unfortunate effect: once things kicked off, I just didn't care! There are also some incredibly jarring pacing issues here: the film flitters between scenes of gruesome horror and action (the practical effects on display here are superb), to scenes of plot exposition, to meandering nothingness. Ultimately, this constant irregularity prevented me from ever becoming fully immersed in its world—and that's a damn shame.
It's even more of a shame as Raven's Hollow establishes and maintains an impressive atmosphere throughout. Filmed on location in Latvia, both cinematographer Michael Rizzi and sound designer Danton Tanimura utilise the natural ambience of this fantastic shooting location; playing with muted colours and dwindling light, and naturally occurring ambient sounds to create an atmosphere of creeping dread, which settles Raven's Hollow comfortably within the Gothic-horror sub-genre to which it so rightly belongs.
Overall, Raven's Hollow is an entertaining, if shallow, foray into the gloomy world of Edgar Allan Poe. In the end, it's difficult to fathom who this film's target audience was intended to be. There is a lot here for fans of Poe's literature to discover. That alone is likely to pique the interest of that particular demographic. But its failure to immerse you in its world in any meaningful way ultimately leaves it unfulfilling. For others, there's a sense of familiarity with the narrative's development. But there just isn't enough here to set it apart from the hundreds of other horror offerings out there. Still, if you're just after switching off for an hour and a half, Raven's Hollow should scratch that itch comfortably.