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Raven’s Hollow (2022) is Gothic Greatness

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Raven’s Hollow Plot

Once upon a midnight dreary, some cadets were becoming weak and weary. The year was 1830 and a small group of West Point military cadets are on a training exercise in upstate New York, among them a man known as Edgar Alen Poe (William Moseley). As they were on their travels, they come upon a man tied to a wooden rack, arms spread like a scarecrow and his insides hanging on the outside. As they approach the dying man to discover who did such a gruesome thing to him the man’s final words are “The Raven”.

These words lead the cadets to a small town that’s far away from the rest of civilisation, a town full of residents who seem to pointedly avoid any and all discussion of the murder that happened just outside their town. The more and more Poe investigates, the more strange things happen and bodies slowly pile up, terrorising Poe in a manner that will not only change his life but undoubtedly influence a large number of legendary gothic horror novels.

Raven’s Hollow Review

Combining elements from Poe’s real life with elements of his legendary horror stories, Raven’s Hollow tells a dark original gothic tale that feels like a Halloween companion to The Man Who Invented Christmas. It takes the legendary author of some of the greatest horror stories of all time and throws him in the middle of one of his own creations, complete with shocking violence and dark gothic imagery that would look fantastic when hung up on the wall of a brooding 17-year-old who desperately wants to be different.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this version of Edgar Allen Poe looks like a generic attractive white guy and not the glorious weird-looking mustached creep we know (not until the very final shot anyway, presumably because they remembered that at some point they should make Edgar Allen Poe look like Edgar Allen Poe)

Cleverly, Raven’s Hollow takes one tiny element of Edgar Allen Poe’s real life (his service in the army and eventual discharge) and uses it more as window dressing, an excuse to have Edgar Allen Poe go through a dark town where anything could happen. It also gives the film an excuse to have several other people around the main character who aren’t real and can be picked off brutally as needed, which the film does with some truly shocking moments that are not only horrific but also cleverly nod to ideas that would turn up in Poe’s work, such as a mangled body hiding under the floorboards or someone’s heart being removed and beating in a hideous fashion… it’s not subtle about these nods, and you wouldn’t want it to be.

Raven's Hollow (2022)
Raven’s Hollow (2022)

It also helps that the town that the main characters find themselves in is suitably dark and unnerving, really it’s less of a town and more of a set of four houses with half a dozen people in them total but it’s enough to create an atmosphere that makes it feel abnormal. It feels, shock of all shocks, like a town pulled straight from an Edgar Allen Poe novel and despite its small and simplistic look it really helps with the sense of horror and dread that this film exudes from every frame. You almost feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when the main characters turn a corner. The strange and dangerous feeling that the film encourages has you thinking that anything could be around the corner waiting to do serious harm.

Where things falter a little for Raven’s Hollow is the low budget, which means that sometimes the film relies on computer graphics that are just a little more over the top than this film can handle. When things are mostly physical or subtle, Raven’s Hollow works pretty well but when they have their big effects moment it kind of stands out and just tears you violently out of the vibe that’s been built so carefully. For almost an hour it’s a slow-paced atmospheric tale with occasional bouts of pretty impressive gore and then some CGI monstrosity appears and just ruins that feeling completely. Granted the film does eventually build back for a decent conclusion but it’s nowhere near what it could’ve been.

It’s also unavoidable to admit that, despite being about an hour and a half, the pacing is pretty slow and can make the film feel like two hours. Fortunately, most of that is just to build a decent atmosphere and if you’re in the mood for that then it’s going to work, but it’s also going to mean some people might just get bored with the proceedings because they are so pointedly slow to build everything up. 

Raven’s Hollow Overall

Raven’s Hollow has plenty of shock and tension to make it worth watching and to somehow still work despite its fumbles in the final act. It’s full of some great performances, beautiful visuals and enough of the good shocking gore to make any horror fan happy. It’s a fun original way to use the Edgar Allen Poe imagery – it could be better, but it’s still got a lot to enjoy.

What did you think of Raven’s Hollow

Raven’s Hollow is available on Shudder from September 22nd. What did you think of Raven’s Hollow?
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