The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - RAVEN’S HOLLOW | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - RAVEN’S HOLLOW

raven's hollow review
A young Edgar Allan Poe stumbles across a supernatural mystery in a small village.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Christopher Hatton

Starring: William Moseley, Melanie Zanetti, Callum Woodhouse, Kate Dickie, David Hayman

raven's hollow poster

When it was announced that Hammer Studios was set to reform, I eagerly awaited an overdue return of the sort of period gothic horror movies the British studio had built its reputation on in its previous 20th century incarnation. Sadly it wasn't to be, with only the disappointing Woman in Black and its sequel skewing towards traditional Hammer fare. Director Christopher Hatton's 1830s set Raven's Hollow is the sort of movie I expected from the revived Hammer, one that makes great use of a cast of talented (mostly) British actors, some well designed sets and atmospheric storytelling.

raven's hollow review

After a striking opening in which a young girl is menaced by a presence in the woods that takes the form of a small whirlwind of leaves, we cut to a group of West Point cadets making their way on horseback through a training exercise. Coming across what they initially believe to be a scarecrow, they find it's something far more gruesome – the disemboweled body of a man left on a wooden rack. The cadets suggest leaving immediately, all but one, who leans in for a closer look. This ghoulish cadet is none other than a young Edgar Allan Poe (William Moseley), and as he's examining the body the man jolts alive for a second and utters a single word, "Raven."

Convincing the others to take the corpse to the nearest town, the cadets come across the hamlet of Raven's Hollow and assume it's where the man was referring to with his last breath. The locals - who are in the middle of the funeral of the girl we saw in the prologue - deny having ever seen the man, but they're behaving in a suspicious manner that draws Poe's curiosity. The local innkeeper, Elizabet (Kate Dickie), suggest the cadets ride away, but her daughter Charlotte (Melanie Zanetti) is enchanted by these handsome new arrivals and insists they spend the night at the inn.

raven's hollow review

Thus sets in motion a classic, decidedly old school (albeit with lashings of gore) piece of gothic storytelling. Snooping around, Poe learns that the village has been menaced by a seemingly supernatural creature that takes the form of something close to a giant raven. Getting the full details from the villagers proves difficult, but when his men begin to be picked off one by one, Poe digs in his heels in search of answers.

Hatton is fully aware of the sort of movie he's making here and leans heavily into the tropes of the genre. All the classic characters are present and correct – the sinister town doctor (David Hayman, who looks for all the world like someone born two centuries ago), the seductress (Zanetti), the lantern clutching servant who issues warnings to "leave now, while you still can" (Oberon K.A. Adjepong) et al. They're all played convincingly by a cast of actors who fit their parts, none more so than Dickie, who was born to become a star of the gothic horror sub-genre.

raven's hollow review

The tension is ramped up nicely, and there's great use of fog machines and dreamlike visions in the night, but the movie loses a lot of momentum in its final act with the full reveal of what our literary icon is up against. Making the lead character a young Poe is a clever way of grabbing our attention, but Hatton pours it on a little too thick with characters bearing names that would later appear in Poe's writings, not to mention a beating tell-tale heart at one point – it gets a little cringey after a point. Overlook these details and fans of gothic horror should be largely satisfied by one of the more committed takes on this form of dark storytelling.

Raven's Hollow
 is on Shudder from September 22nd.

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