As if the name wasn’t enough to make the comparison, Raven’s Hollow is very much like if Sleepy Hollow was combined with the eerie prose of Edgar Allen Poe. There is even a note-perfect Ichabod Crane-esque character, this time being that of Poe himself, as played by Chronicles of Narnia and The Royals vet, William Moseley. Other movies have tried to form something coherent on the coattails of Poe’s texts, utilizing Poe himself as inspiration for crafting richer stories based around the concept. Few, if any, have been successful at developing an original story with meaning. Raven’s Hollow sets out to right this wrong with a fresh set of mysteries, accompanied by sinister imagery, and a cult-like locale whose townsfolk have clearly gone off the deep end.
After a gripping opening that sees a young woman floating midair and ends with a series of petals forcing their way up through her mouth, our motley crew of travelers (all of whom are U.S. military cadets) come upon a human corpse fashioned to look like a scarecrow in a vast field. In a creepy twist from what we are expecting, the man has been disemboweled but is alive enough to utter one word: “raven.” Young Poe proclaims they are honor-bound to take the body home—as the nearest town is called Raven’s Hollow, it is only fitting that this seemingly deserted spot becomes their temporary destination.
What few townspeople remain are gathered together for a funeral, which is where Poe and company find them. Yet, there is no constable or higher authority present with which to take their findings. They claim not to recognize the man, yet swiftly change their tune by saying he was a wanderer who was awarded temporary reprieve before being sent on his way. Suspicious matriarch Elizabet (Kate Dickie, The Witch, Game of Thrones) and her alluring daughter, Charlotte (Melanie Zanetti, Love and Monsters), offer up their boarding house for the five young men to stay the night while the situation is sorted. A hot meal and a place to lay their head—what could possibly go wrong?
Weirdly enough, nearly everyone in town seems a bit odd, as if they are hiding something. The secretive residents point the finger at a mysterious figure known as “the Raven,” who is nothing but bad news according to ancient legend. Like Ichabod Crane, Poe believes there must be a scientific explanation for it all, and is determined to get to the bottom of things. One by one, the Raven claims his party. Desperately trying to unmask the true identity of the Raven, Poe will stop at nothing to bring the villain to justice.
When we finally see what the Raven looks like, it is very much worth the wait. Filling the film with endless Poe references like characters named Usher and an intriguing bookend, writer/director Chris Hatton pays loving tribute to Edgar Allen Poe like no other. Raven’s Hollow is dripping with atmospheric dread and period piece mystery-solving, and it is sure to please fans of the genre with its fast pace and beautifully-designed horrors.
Raven’s Hollow cracks open a dastardly book of Poe inspirations when it debuts exclusively to Shudder on Thursday, September 22nd. It screened at 2022’s FrightFest.