Starring John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe in the last year of his life in 1849. Poe is called upon to help solve crimes which use ideas from his stories: the pendulum, the nailed down window, his fiancee abducted from a bathroom like Masque of the Red Death, and she is buried alive like in The Fall of the House of Ussher. The serial killer is obviously playing cat and mouse with Poe who has to overcome the one step behind deficit. He works with the chief inspector, Emmet Fields, played by Luke Evans. Poe is trying to marry Emily (Alice Eve) but he must first win over her father played by Brendan Gleeson. Will he rescue his fiancee in time?
In a recent article, I read that Poe was a hack who wrote sensationalist stuff for a sensation hungry public. His claims to literary merit were unfounded, and his poems were comic book Coleridge. He did become a big hit with the French symbolists. A few Hammer films used his stories and he could be fun. The idea of his being a detective using his own stories is a good one and it’s surprising it hasn’t been done before. Cusack is enjoyably hammy as the boozy hell raiser who does what all rebellious writers have to do, upset the respectable classes. Cusack never gets into anything nuanced but it is a likeable performance, and given the Tim Burton type gloominess, Jonny Depp could have played this role. Poe lives in a world of dark streets and austere studies, the film looks like an unfolding Moroccan bound volume of dramatic prints like set pieces for daguerrotype. It aspires to be the detective story that Poe should have written but didn’t. The acting in general is melodramatic, there’s lots of shouting and flouncing around in funereal settings. Poe and the chief detective have a respectful but uneasy relationship, the prototype of the detective calling on the help that they initially despise. There is an enthusiastic eye for detail in the old wood and wrought iron of the workshops and bars. The film moves along at a great pace and it’s easy with Victorian eccentricities. I wonder if it’s intentional in its appearance of being a Corman film, Roger Corman was a Poe enthusiast in the horror fantasies of the ’60s. It does seem to be a tribute to him and Hammer films. Quite enjoyable.