22 June 2024
From Raven's Hollow (on Shudder soon)

Arrow Frightfest 2022 – Film Review – Raven’s Hollow (2022)

Atmospheric Gothic creature feature that also doubles as a literary origin story for Edgar Allan Poe. There will be Ravens!!!

We join young Poe during the early stages of his stint as a Military Cadet just as he stumbles upon a gory Worzel Gummidge with its guts dribbling out. The defiled human scarecrow mumbles the word ‘Raven’ before succumbing to his wounds. Consequently, Poe and his small band of comrades ride to the nearby mist-shrouded settlement of Raven’s Hollow to see if they can secure a proper resting place for the remains.

They are soon met by genre Goddess of period horror Kate Dickie in full sinister secret-guarding mode replete with a Bride of Frankenstein streak in her hair. Despite the frosty welcome and foreboding air of doom, the cadets decide to stick around like a 19th-century Mystery Incorporated to poke about and unmask the killer amongst them.

What seems at first glance to be a generic Gothic potboiler, though admittedly a very well-made one, is actually much more than that. The unique perspective provided by pitching a legendary wordsmith as its hero makes for a fascinating insight into what sparked his macabre creative streak and paved the way for his untimely demise.

Anyone with even a passing interest in the fine work of Poe will gain great satisfaction in decoding the references and collecting the plethora of tasty Easter eggs. They range from hidden in plain sight examples, such as beating hearts and naming a character Usher, to deliciously subtle allusions to Court Marshalls and the black dog of depression. The most impressive of all is the triple-down significance of the uncredited name Lenore, but I will leave you to discover that yourselves.

This loading of the literary bases is a bit kitchen sink in its execution, but it’s also where the real joy of the movie lies and you have to admire the sheer volume of it. For god’s sake do not watch this film with an ardent Poe geek or risk your viewing experience turning into an English Lit University lecture.

Not content with packing acres of Edgar into the picture it somehow finds room to squeeze in multiple nods to other famous authors of the period such as Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne. At times it does feel like an exhausting but entertaining exam.

William Moseley is excellent as the prototype Poe and strikes an engaging bargain between cocky Hercule Poirotness and Lord Byronesque danger-mongering. His measured performance is often the diversion barrier that stops the movie from sliding into a meretricious parody.

In terms of evoking a credible period atmosphere, Raven’s Hollow hits the Gothy bullseye. Rolling fogs and jagged coppices silhouetted against the dark sky abound. Men ask rhetorical questions like “Anyone here argue with a warm bed for the night?“, and women wander the moonlight-bathed woodruff clutching wickerwork baskets.

The creature that haunts Raven’s Hollow is a vicious bugger with powerful talons and a cheeky sideline in machiavellian mind fuckery. It is actually artfully rendered with a nightmarish appearance somewhere between a shapeshifting plague doctor and Q: The Winged Serpent. All of this is made all the more vivid by Poe’s insistence on getting loaded to the tits on opiates during the film’s rousing climax.

Beautifully made and meticulously researched Raven’s Hollow is essential viewing for Gothic-minded souls and will elicit thrills and gory spills for those looking for a more high-brow class of monster movie.



Gothic Creature Feature, Supernatural Mystery | UK, 2022 | 98 mins | Arrow Frightfest 2022 |Canoe Films, SHUDDER| Dir. Christopher Hatton | With: William Moseley, Melanie Zanetti, Kate Dickie, David Hayman.

Raven’s Hollow will be available to stream exclusively on Shudder from Sept 22.


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