A routine horseback patrol through the wooded expanses of upstate New York leading to a shocking discovery by Cadets Becker, Bishop, Cricke, Poe and Taylor, a man tied to an arrangement of branches and sliced open, astonishingly still alive, he gasps a single word before he dies – “Raven.” The nearest settlement named Raven’s Hollow, it is the obvious place for the five men to begin their investigation.
The townsfolk disinterested, claiming first to have no knowledge of the man then saying he was a stranger who passed through the town briefly, they seem unbothered that the murderer might be among them. Poe observant and analytical, despite their attempts to dissuade him he will not let go of the mystery, seeking answers from the tight-mouthed villagers on the apparition which haunts Raven’s Hollow.
Marvel having built a towering empire on origin stories, it is rare for literary figures to receive the same treatment, Shakespeare in Love and the Russian supernatural television series Gogol being rare exceptions, but director Christopher Hatton’s sojourn in the misty outpost of Raven’s Hollow is of a lesser calibre, Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination requiring no prompting from demonic visitations.
Poe played with a nervous hesitation by William Moseley, the townsfolk of Raven’s Hollow are led by sour-faced Elizabet Ingram (Outcast’s Kate Dickie), her equally petulant daughter Charlotte (Love and Monsters’ Melanie Zanetti) who blows hot and cold as the wind changes, Doctor Garrett (Andor’s David Hayman), unwilling to commit to any opinion of value in the investigation, and gravedigger Daniel Clay (Callum McGowan) whose father survived an encounter which left him a fearful opium addicted wreck.
Recognising from the first that the villagers are “secretive and brooding,” that established Poe’s investigation fails to progress effectively, the performances weighed down by the bland dialogue of the script by Hutton and Chuck Reeves which develops neither character nor plot with alacrity, the Cadets disengaged from any sense of danger even as disappearances occur within their own ranks.
Filmed principally in Latvia, the principal selling point of the film is the location, the misty fields and forests and the tall wooden buildings which form the township, but the vague atmosphere is insufficient to distract from digital effects poorly rendered and inserted, Dickie’s preposterous Lily Munster wig or a story which fundamentally has no desire to be told, the silence preferred by the inhabitants of Raven’s Hollow perhaps wise in the circumstances.
Raven’s Hollow will be available on Shudder from Thursday 22nd September