Thursday, October 14, 2010


Directed by Sheldon Wilson.
2007. Rated R, 85 minutes.
Sean Patrick Flanery
Stephen McHattie
Kristin Booth
John Ralston
Megan Park
Vladimir Bondarenko
Ashley Newbrough
Rod Taylor
Michelle Duquet

Ravens have long been foreboding, even gothic creatures. The sight of one can give you that uneasy feeling something bad is about to happen. Think about it. The vision of Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis coming out of the tunnel doing his ridiculous, rhythmless war-dance makes you think he’s about to do something horrible to someone in a different color jersey. The rise to prominence of Raven Symone was an ominous warning that we were all about to be subjects under the iron thumb of Hannah Montana. Of course, there’s also one of the most famous and unsettling poems in the history of the written word, “The Raven” by one of my favorite writers of all time, Edgar Allan Poe.

In this cinematic offering, I mean SyFy original, the dreaded birds have evolved from foreshadowers of gloom and doom to a flock of vengeful and homicidal fowls. The poor old guy at the beginning makes the unfortunate mistake of backing over one with his tractor. Next thing you know, he’s surrounded by more ravens than he can count and they proceed to peck him to death. Seriously. Whatever, the important part is more mayhem involving wild birds ensues.

As is always the case in movies like this, it’s up to the local sheriff to figure things out. In this case, the sheriff is played by Sean Patrick Flanery of the Boondock Saints movies. Talk about your ominous signs. Of course, he acts as our thought process, thinking out loud for us. Sadly, the only thing he actually figures out is that these are indeed ravens, not crows, of which he dutifully informs the townfolk, the whole dozen. By the way, I find it hilarious that no one in this place, presumably set during the present, has a cell phone. Don’t they issue those at birth, nowadays? I mean, the whole town is shut down because “the phone lines are down.” Really?

True, certain people aren’t supposed to have cell phones. In this case, those people are the Mennonites who also share the community. Apparently, there are only three of them, but whatever. If you’re unfamiliar with Mennonites, suffice it to say they’re similar to the Amish. Of course, that’s at the risk of insulting both groups, but you get the point. So against modernization are the Mennonites, at least in this movie, they refer to the other people in town as “the children of the English.” If that reference floats over your dome, think the children of the original colonists in “the New World”, a few centuries ago. The Mennonites are important here because they made a little boo boo that may have led to making the local ravens, um, ravenous. Okay, I couldn’t resist. Anyhoo, the question becomes is this some sort of punishment from God, or is something else going on?

That sounds interesting. However, it is executed poorly. The writing isn’t strong enough to overcome the inherent silliness of the plot. It’s definitely not Hitchcock. The acting is only passable and save for one tiny moment, a throwaway jump-scare, it never even threatens to frighten us. Instead, we simply sit back and peck at its flaws. Did I do that, again? Sorry. Strangely enough, the town doctor (Taylor) is somehow exempt from all the incompetence. During each of his brief moments, he seems to have dropped in from a much better movie to impart some wisdom through insightful dialogue delivered by good acting. Weird. Oh, almost forgot, did you know that ravens are evidently man-eating? And canine-eating, too? Me, neither! Amazing. As you can see, the unintentional humor factor is fairly high, but it never gets to “so bad, it’s awesome.” It’s just bad.

Let's get back to Poe for a moment because I can’t bear to think anymore about this movie. However, it did help me better interpret the master’s poem. Since most of us haven’t read it since high school and have forgotten it, or haven’t reached high school and haven’t read it yet, I’ll give you a quick recap. Edgar…er…the speaker is up late one night trying to get some reading done, but he keeps dozing off. Seeing how we’re talking Poe, there’s a coin flip’s chance there are some narcotics involved, but I digress. He hears some strange noises coming from outside and decides to investigate. He finds a raven perched above his door and pretty much drops a load in his britches, fretting over what possible news the bird could be bringing. He asks the bird a bunch of questions, mostly about his beloved Lenore. The raven answers each inquiry with a single word, nevermore. Of course, this makes him assume the worst and totally blows his high…er…wrecks his night. After dozens of reads, the aforementioned knowledge of Poe’s recreational habits and watching this film, I finally get it. Poe was standing outside his door at midnight talking to a bird and hoping for a proper response, but the raven kept saying the only thing a raven could say, “kaw!”

MY SCORE: 2/10

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