1830, just outside the town of Raven’s Hollow, five West Point cadets, Edgar Allan Poe (William Moseley, The Chronicles of Narnia, Medieval), yes the writer, Lawrence Bishop (Kyle Rowe, The Brothers Grimsby), Will Taylor (Callum Woodhouse, The Durrells, All Creatures Great and Small), Thomas Cricke (Michael Guest, Balance) and Lutz Becker (Mathis Landwehr, Sky Sharks, Urban Fighter) come across a man disembowelled and hung up like a scarecrow.
In true cinematic fashion, he has just enough life left in him to utter a single word, “Raven”, before dying. Poe convinces the others it’s their duty to bring his body to town for proper burial. What they find is a town that is almost deserted, its inhabitants in the middle of a funeral for a girl we saw die a most unnatural death in the film’s prologue. It quickly becomes obvious they’re trying to keep something hidden as well.
Raven’s Hollow was directed and co-written, with Chuck Reeves (Ogre), by Christopher Hatton who you may remember for his film Battle of the Damned which pitted Dolph Lundgren and a crew of robots against a city full of zombies.
Here however he‘s dropped the high-tech elements and gone fully gothic with a tale that starts with a grain of fact, Poe did indeed attend West Point although he hated it so much that he deliberately got himself court marshaled and expelled. It then mixes in various elements of fiction, including some that will be familiar to those familiar with Poe’s works.
Ignoring a warning by Usher (Oberon K.A. Adjepong, The Many Saints of Newark, Freedom) to leave immediately, the cadets soon find themselves meeting bloody ends. There are plenty of reasons to suspect the townsfolk, including Dr. Garrett (David Hayman, Vertical Limit, Kingslayer), Elizabet (Kate Dickie, Shepherd, The Witch), and Daniel (Callum McGowan, It Came from the Desert, The Art of Love). And Charlotte (Melanie Zanetti, Love and Monsters, Battle of the Damned) who assists Poe in his investigations seems a little too interested in violent death. Or, as some of them claim, the work of a devil? Perhaps a combination of both?
At times Raven’s Hollow feels a bit like a bloodier version of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, trading Poe for Ichabod Crane and The Raven for The Headless Horsman. And it certainly has that film’s atmosphere if not its touches of steampunk. In its place, we get Poe trancing on opium in order to connect with the spirit world.
And, like Burton’s film, Raven’s Hollow is much more entertaining than it is frightening. That’s not to say that it doesn’t provide a fair amount of tension or jump scares. But since we know the story of Poe’s life, we also know, that no matter what happens to the rest of the cast, our protagonist will survive.
Despite that, Raven’s Hollow did keep me interested and guessing about the other characters and their fates. Especially once the film reaches its final act and the bodies really start dropping. If you’re a fan of Poe’s writing you may be able to use some of the references to his work and his life to figure out where the story is heading but it’s still fun seeing how it gets there.
Along the way, we do get some fairly good gore effects to liven things up. The creature, when we do finally see it is CGI, but it’s reasonably well done and doesn’t stick around long enough for it to be obvious. Overall Raven’s Hollow is an enjoyable if lightweight film that’s worth the time it takes to watch it.