Popped off to the cinema to see this film based very loosely on the life and work of Edgar Allen Poe, the influential American writer credited as the father of modern detective stories as well as for his grisly tales of madness and murder.
This film is story set during the last few days in the life of Edgar Allen Poe. Poe (John Cusack) is a penniless drunk (with a pet raccoon for some reason), depending on money he gets from The Baltimore Times for writing acerbic reviews of other writers’ work to keep him in the booze. Emily (Alice Eve) the woman he loves is difficult to reach because her father Colonel Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) has a very understandable dislike of Poe so they have sneak around behind his back.
The police are investigating two brutal murders of a mother and her 12-year-old daughter in a locked room. Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) notices the parallels between these murders and the Poe story Murders in the Rue Morgue so he sends a squad of policemen out to bring Poe in for questioning. Although Fields doesn’t believe Poe is responsible for the murders he is definitely connected to them.
There’s a second murder this time based on the story The Pit and The Pendulum and this is a pretty gory killing as you can imagine if you are aware of the story (if you are not I’ll just say the pendulum has an enormous blade on the end of it). The victim this time is a writer at The Baltimore Times who wrote highly negative reviews of Poe’s stories. A crimson mask found on body is a message from the killer to Poe and the police about where he will strike next. The killer is playing a game with them and when the life of his beloved Emily is threatened Poe is forced to play the killer’s game.
This was an entertaining mystery thriller and I did like the inclusion of Poe’s stories in this film. The setting felt authentic enough and there was no anachronistic steam punk stuff going on like so many other alternative history stories. The cast are reasonable enough, especially Brendan Gleeson, but they don’t really get too much development. I don’t have any doubt that Cusack’s performance bore very little resemblance to the real Edgar Allen Poe but it was fun and over the top and similar to Robert Downey Juniors’s take on Sherlock Holmes. Anyone expecting dark melancholia and madness will probably not like this film but for people only passingly familiar with Poe it is a mystery thriller romp with a pulpy comic book feel.