Stumbling down the stairs to his old apartment, a restless and tormented soul removes the police tape blocking his doorstep. He enters and relives the gruesome murder of his fiance as well as his own. Like a residual haunting, he can feel every kick to the gut as he’s forced to watch the thugs rape his bride-to-be again and again. He then beholds his unkind fate as the degenerates pierce his stomach with knives and bullets before hurling him to a six-story descent into concrete.
Eric Draven and Shelly Webster were to exchange vows on Halloween; instead, they shared graves. Alas, their love is bound so tight, a supernatural crow refuses to deny them justice for their robbed future.
Returning Draven to life, the blackbird guides the battered victim on a mission of vengeance and rectitude. The time has come for the drug-dealing Top Dollar and his gang to answer for their greed and lawlessness.
“The Crow” is a comic book written by James O’Barr, but is more renowned as a cult classic starring the late Brandon Lee as Draven (Lee’s death on set as well as his life is a subject for another blog). It’s clear O’Barr was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” This influence extends to the film adaptation as well. For my purposes, I shall explore the relationship between the raven and its host in Poe’s classic tale and “The Crow” directed by Alex Proyas.
Even from the get-go, Poe’s masterpiece sets an eery vibe. Employing a little onomatopoeia, the famous poet subtly lays the groundwork for an unseen yet faintly audible intruder. Poe writes, “While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, / As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door” (3-4). This sound initiates the speaker’s curiosity, stirring him to investigate.
The significance of these verses in “The Crow” is twofold. For starters, Lee said these lines after shattering the glass door to Gideon’s Pawnshop.
Gideon barters with Top Dollar’s associates, profiting off their illegal gains. As such, he has Shelly’s engagement ring, which places him in Draven’s spectral eyes. On a sidenote, it’s interesting to observe how Proyas has Lee verbalize these lines after the door’s obliteration, adding a visual hyperbole to Poe’s classic tale.
Another facet of those iconic words can be applied directly to Draven, albeit with an even more morbid and haunting twist. The crow pecks at Draven’s tombstone, not subsiding until it awakens the deceased rockstar back to the realm of the living. Eric’s “chamber door” is his tombstone. The raven had disrupted the tyrannized pawn’s eternal slumber only to reopen the agonies of his loss. He has been made vulnerable to psychological pain yet again.
One element consistent in both mediums is the raven’s unwavering presence. Poe states, “‘Other friends have flown before- / On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’/ Then the bird said ‘Nevermore'” (58-60). The poem’s implications for the raven’s lingering stay are malevolent; it haunts the narrator forever. It is a curse on his continued existence, heckling the speaker with its dismal one-word answers on subjects burdensome to him.
The film’s crow, based off O’Barr’s comic, is less sinister. It clings to Draven until his quest of vengeance is executed.
Rather than serving as a blight sending him down a bottomless pit of despair, the blackbird is the rocker’s ace as I’ll soon explain with this next verse. Poe exclaims, “This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing / To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core” (73-74). For the narrator in this ghastly tale, the passage merely reflects on his growing obsession with the bird.
A loose interpretation in conjunction with the movie connotes a deeper meaning; Draven and his raven are now inextricably linked. The crow is a secondary pair of eyes and ears for Eric, guiding him to his targets and alerting him of danger.
Perhaps the most remarkable gift the crow bestows to Eric is the ability to heal from any mortal wound sustained. The downside of this union is anything or anyone of personal significance who touch the abnormally alive hero trigger a flood of memories that cause seizures and psychological scars (the first being his cat, Gabriel). These scars are a recollection of past times with Shelly, a blissful life he will never recapture.
The final analysis I’ll expound on is Lenore, the narrator’s departed loved one. Draven’s Lenore is Shelly. In both interpretations the raven pours salt in the wound of its host, whether intentional or incidental. For the narrator in the poem, it is the former as Poe laments:
“‘Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.’ Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore'” (93-96).
The raven is nefarious and spiteful in Poe’s classic masterpiece; it informs the grieving speaker he will never see his Lenore again, even in the afterlife as “Aidenn” is synonymous with Eden. Even worse, the fiendish fowl will stay perched there always to remind him of his unattainable love. However, the crow in the movie does reunite Eric with Shelly in the afterlife.
In conclusion, both “The Crow” and Poe’s “The Raven” are cryptic tales of love lost. The bond shared between the narrator and the raven is one of malicious intent while Draven’s crow is one offering finality and reunion.