Raven’s Hollow is a period piece tale of supernatural horror set in upstate New York during the fall of 1830. Our leads are five West Point cadets who are on a training exercise, their commander being none other than a young Edgar Allan Poe (William Moseley). While out and about on horseback, they come across a ritualistic crime scene that might be connected to a creepy local town. Horror follows.
Honestly, that’s a pretty good set-up for a horror yarn. We are presented with a nice tropey terror tale that can play with Hammer and Amicus vibes, all with a literary genre icon at its center during a true (well, the cadet part at least) time in his life before he became the famous author we still love to this very day. It should be pretty nifty, right?
For the most part, it actually is. Yes, there are groan-worthy moments from time to time where references to Poe’s future works are delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to a landmine. That’s par for the course with fare such as this and always has been. Thankfully, writer/director Christopher Hatton doesn’t overdo such moments.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that filmmakers have made Edgar Allan Poe a character in a horror film. James McTeigue’s 2012 flick The Raven immediately comes to mind, and we have another “cadet Poe helps solve a murder” movie arriving later this year, in the form of Scott Cooper’s The Pale Blue Eye. It’s a fun concept, but one that Raven’s Hollow doesn’t explore as deeply as it could.
The first two acts get pretty repetitive, with the cadets constantly interrogating and accusing the same handful of townsfolk over and over again, with next to no story progression. It’s spinning its wheel, which might be more acceptable if we knew more about the individual cadets beyond the fact that one respects Poe, two others don’t, and the fifth doesn’t have much of a personality one way or another. It also doesn’t help that our lead is pretty wooden, constantly being outshined in his big moments by the more capable character actor cast that surrounds him.
The third act makes up for this by kicking things into high gear and charging at full speed until the end, but it’s not quite enough to overcome the plodding nature of the first two thirds. Which is a real shame, because aforementioned character actors (particularly Mathis Landwehr, David Hayman, and The Witch‘s Kate Dickie) do their best to give it a shot in the arm every step of the way. The fog-swept production design is also top-notch, along with some superb Gothic outdoor imagery as well. I’d also like to give a shoutout to composer Robert Ellis-Geiger, who delivers a nice thundering score to accompany said imagery.
I know some critics have complained about the FX work, but that didn’t really bother me. For this budget level, they mostly work and Hatton does a good job of not focusing on them for too long or too directly. Besides, this isn’t a monster movie, but instead a mystery that happens to have a supernatural entity at its center.
Raven’s Hollow isn’t a home run on any level, but it is a decent slice of fall-appropriate period piece horror. It’s fine! And that’s fine. Not every genre film has to be an instant classic. If you’re looking for something to ease into “spooky season” with before you start spinning (or streaming) your favorites, you could do a lot worse.
Raven’s Hollow is available to stream exclusively on Shudder.
Raven’s Hollow is a period piece supernatural horror film. It was directed by Christopher Hatton, from a screenplay by Chuck Reeves and Christopher Hatton. The film was produced by Andrejs Ekis, Todd Lundbohm, and Caroline Stern. It stars William Moseley, Melanie Zanetti, Callum McGowan, Kate Dickie, Oberon K.A. Adjepong, David Hayman, Callum Woodhouse, Mathis Landwehr, Kyle Rowe, and Michael Guest.