J: Jack, right off the bat, let me make it clear that John Cusack is not appearing in The Raven of his own free will. He is doing so because he is bound by raven magic. The President of the United Raven States (or, POTURS) loaned John Cusack his Netflix password, in exchange for a lifetime of servitude, both here on this mortal plane and in the afterlife. Not just to ravens, but also mynah birds, parakeets, essentially any avian creature, except for geese, who are assholes.
The POTURS is a half-man, half-raven. He leads the executive branch of the raven government. And can we take a moment to applaud these forward thinking ravens for electing a mixed-species president for the first time in raven history? Of course, the POTURS owes a lot of his campaign’s success to the visual work of Shepard Fairey, who makes ends meet by doing graphic design for ravens. They pay him in buttons, scraps of cloth and bits of wire, which he then uses to pay rent to his landlord, who is also a raven.
And yes, the POTURS does quoth, “Nevermore.” When he finds time to get to the gym. Right now he’s quothing about 60 reps of Nevermore.
You might think this arrangement is unfair to John Cusack, but he is now only one season behind on Sons of Anarchy, so it all comes out in the wash. Also in John Cusack’s wash: raven feathers, constantly materializing from thin air, in the pockets of his shirts and in his bedsheets, to remind him of his eternal debt to the ravens, and to a lesser degree, his debt to Ron Perlman, for Perlman’s amazing acting work on Sons of Anarchy.
JW: “Right Off the Bat?” I thought we were talking about The Raven here but now you’re telling me this is another vampire movie? But, I see where you’re going with that. It’s basically Bad News Bears meets Nosferatu. That’s got potential. I’ll get to work on a treatment. I can’t promise there won’t be some vampire/umpire gags in the screenplay. But, first off, we have to change the title. “From the studio that brought you ‘Field of Demons’ comes ‘Vampire Bat.’ When a misfit team of little leaguers removes a stake from the corpse they find in the woods behind left field, they get more than they bargained for. He’s a vampire, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be their coach. And they just might make it to the state championship if the players ever stop disappearing during road trips.” Imagine that, in a trailer, with “Solsbury Hill” playing behind it.
So, yeah, speaking of Peter Gabriel, here’s a John Cusack movie.
Do you know what’s great about this trailer? If so, please tell me. There’s nothing in this that’s making me want to see it, other than the fact that Alice Eve is in it and I’m sure she’s quite fetching in Victorian get-up, but I think I learned that from IMDb, anyway. I’m just kind of rolling my eyes at the whole Poe Copycat Killer angle. Although, I guess you couldn’t do a Lovecraft Copycat angle. “Mr. Lovecraft, this is the president. There’s a man who has been dressing up like a hundred-foot tall squid-headed Elder God going around shaking men’s faith in the workings of the universe. Could you, y’know, do something about that?” So Poe it is, then.
I say the Copycat Poe thing isn’t interesting, but maybe that’s because I see something of it daily. There’s a guy on my street who is, himself, ripped from some movie, I’m sure. He’s the half-crazy, pestering, paranoid, though slightly endearing neighbor of comedic convention, only without the endearing part and with more spaghetti stains and visible buttcrack. I’ve seen whole flocks of crows descend upon his property and hang out for long periods. I wondered what dark power he had over them until the day I saw him sprinkling cat food on his lawn. Obviously, he has a murder of crows doing his bidding in exchange for all the Friskies they can eat. Yes, I know we’re talking about ravens, but as any ornithologist who has been drinking will tell you, a raven is just a crow that has eaten too much cat food. I just want you to know that I was going to fold that nutty-neighbor-feeding-ravens-
Forgive my digression, and I know this is going to sound like a hipper-than-thou music snob thing to say, but as far as Nirvana albums go, I prefer “Bleach” to “Nevermore.”
J: Much like Poe’s famous short story “The Tell-Tale Heart”, in which a murderer is tormented by the ceaseless beating of his victim’s heart beneath the floorboards, Kurt Cobain was tormented by the ceaseless bleating of Courtney Love beneath the floorboards, as she would often get drunk, crawl under their house and be unable to find her way out. She’d also sing “Crazy on You” by Heart at the top of her lungs (a song which tells the tale of Nancy and/or Ann Wilson’s plans to go absolutely crazy on you, the listener) during her forays into these underground crawlspaces. And this is how it came to be that Kurt Cobain was driven to madness by a tell-tale Heart.
JW: Can you fumigate for that stuff? Because I’m pretty sure that the reason my house (3 BR, 1 and 1/2 bath, good school district, great neighborhood) isn’t selling is because the crawl-space is infested with Riot Grrrls. Well, that and the aforementioned batshit neighbor and associated persistent carrion-bird problem. But anyway, “Tell-tale Heart-Shaped Box” is an okay track, I guess. Speaking of 90’s alterna-hits (or alterna-also-rans, really), do you remember Poe? Because, now that I think about it, I barely do. I was going to say that she was kind of Sheryl Crow-ish, but then I realized I was thinking of Heather Nova. What was Poe like? Where was I going with this? Are you as shocked as I am every time you remember that Sheryl Crow is not, in fact, Canadian? Because it really seems like she should be.
Does this movie take place in Baltimore, Poe’s city of residence? If so, then clearly the Baltimore Film and Television Commission* has really stepped up their game, as they’ve managed to make a foggy, damp, gaslit,19th-century tenement slum beset upon by a remorseless serial killer seem like an improvement over Baltimore as portrayed in “The Wire.” I smell a bonus in the works for some bureaucrat. I smell it, because in Baltimore, your bonus is a sack of crabcakes.
Do you think this will tackle any of Edgar Allan Poe’s alleged cross-dressing while head of the FBI? I really hope so. As for the copycat killer, if he doesn’t at some point employ an orangutan with a straight-razor for one of the murders, the director has really dropped the ball on Poe allusions. And if that bit does make it, it better be scored with “Yakety Sax” or it doesn’t count. At the very least, the killer needs one of those orangutan puppet/toys from the 80s that that Velcroed around your neck and waist. But with a razor. Any of that would really jazz this flick up. Otherwise, quoth the Fancy Feast-bloated Raven, “Nevermind.”
*I just made that organization up. Unless they really exist. Then I didn’t.