THE RAVEN "Oh, that Marmaduke!"

EDGAR ALLEN POE, best known for his poem "The Raven" and gothic horror shorts such as "The Pit and the Pendulum," died under mysterious circumstances. On October 3, 1849, the dying author was found on the streets of Baltimore; delirious, ranting, and wearing someone else's clothes. And so starts The Raven, an imaginary retelling of Poe's last days—and while the author's death may have actually been caused by alcoholism, syphilis, or perhaps even rabies... in this case, let's just say a ka-raaaazy serial murderer had something to do with it, okay? Just to keep history interesting.

Drunk and financially desperate, Poe (John Cusack) is rousted from his stupor when the aforementioned ka-raaaazy killer begins terrorizing Baltimore—awkwardly using grisly, horrific methods derived from Poe's own literary works. Correctly recognizing that Poe's drunkenness clears him of the crime, brilliant Detective Fields (Luke Evans) makes the author his personal "Watson" and together they track the killer. Unfortunately, the psycho kidnaps Poe's adorable and busom-y girlfriend (Alice Eve), and the race is on to rescue her so that (A) she doesn't die horribly, and (B) history remains interesting.

The acting's not the problem here—Cusack's jittery Poe and Eve's busom-y breathlessness are top notch. And while director James McTeigue's (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin) style is a bit too reminiscent of the recent rock 'em-sock 'em Victorianism of Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes series, the clip remains steady and the murders are suitably grotesque.

The problem lies in a script that thinks it's clever twice over, ignores gaping plot holes, and tells a story that cannot decide how "true" it wants to be. Overall, it's fine. (Said with a shrug.) Though I can't help wishing for the movie that actually explains why the dying Poe was wearing someone else's clothes. That sounds sexy.