If Edgar Allan Poe were alive today, he’d be that intense guy you’ve seen planted in front of a Mac at Starbucks. You know the one. Never looks up from his keyboard. Unkempt hair. Wears a flannel shirt too far-gone for Febreze.
Poe died poor and broken 150 years ago. Before his mystery shrouded booze infused demise on the streets of Baltimore at age 40, he’d still managed to write an ample supply of dark, twisted, woe inducing literature. He was the original Goth.
But let’s suppose he was alive right now. And in between sinking his Twitter followers into despair with Tweets about the inexorable sadness of the human condition he found time to write a few Hollywood movies. What follows are five movies Poe might have penned if he wasn’t suffering from dead.
David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) are detectives in an unnamed, gritty, general hell hole of a metropolis. They’re assigned a case involving a string of horrific murders based on the seven deadly sins (Gluttony, Envy, Lust, Pride, Sloth, Greed and Wrath). You’ll never look at a box delivery from UPS the same way again.
Poe story SE7EN most resembles: “ The Murders in the Rue Morgue ” (1841)
In 1841, Poe published ” The Murders in the Rue Morgue ,” where he introduced Parisian detective C. Auguste Dupin. This story is credited with introducing the first detective/crime procedural narrative and influenced Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Agatha Christie ( Hercule Poirot) as well as TV procedurals like CSI and its ilk. But you won’t find any crime lab montages accompanied by techno music or detectives wearing above pay grade European sunglasses. In “Rue Morgue” Dupin investigates a pair of grisly Parisian murders following clues that include an escaped orangutan with a shaving fetish, a nearly severed head and a body stuffed into a chimney. With “Rue Morgue” Poe proved he had an ample amount of Section 8 for Se7en.
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) suffers from anterograde amnesia and unable to generate any new memories. A dicey affliction to have when gathering clues and tracking down the perps who raped and murdered your wife. Because of his affliction, Leonard must resort to getting tattoos to remind him of some critical information where for the rest of us a simple note on the fridge would have sufficed.
Poe story MEMENTO most resembles: “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1850)
“The Tell-Tale Heart” follows an unnamed, obviously bat nuts narrator who murders a guy because of his “vulture eye” and dismembers the body before stuffing the fleshy jigsaw under the floorboards. Eventually the narrator’s guilt and paranoia evolves into certified insanity when he starts to hear the heartbeat of his victim coming from beneath the floor. During a visit from the cops who are investigating a report of loud noises and screams coming from the man’s room, he breaks down and confesses. Three years prior to writing this story, Poe’s first wife Virginia died of tuberculosis. His crushing guilt over her loss landed him on a water slide of booze for the rest of his life. In Memento, Leonard Shelby mitigates the immense guilt surrounding his wife’s death by creating a seemingly impossible riddle of paranoia and misdirected blame to distract him from the truth. Or was it just an excuse to get a few really sweet tats?
Oh Dae-Su ( Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped and locked up in a hotel room without even knowing who his captor is or what their motive may be. While watching TV, he learns that his wife has been murdered and his daughter sent to foster parents. When finally released, 15 years later, Oh Dae Su sets out with the aim of dispensing violent revenge on those responsible for stealing his life. After seeing this movie you’ll think twice about having sex with someone young enough to be your adult offspring.
Poe story OLDBOY most resembles: “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846)
In “The Cask of Amontillado,” an Italian nobleman named Montresor seeks revenge for an unnamed insult from fellow nobleman Fortunato. During a carnival, Montresor lures a drunk Fortunato to his basement by telling him he’s obtained a cask of Amontillado, a pricey and rare sherry (think of it as fancy J¤germeister). Once in the basement, Montresor manages to chain Fortunato to the wall and builds a brick wall entombing him. At the end of the story, 50 years after that night, Montresor brags about never being caught. Now that’s not revenge. That’s a Costco pallet size “that’s more mustard than I’ll ever need” kind of revenge. In Oldboy, Oh Dae-Su doesn’t pick up masonry during the course of his retribution but he does eventually track down his tormentors and leaves behind many corpses that won’t have the luxury of an open casket funeral. But unlike Montresor, Oh Dae-Su doesn’t walk away with a clean wipe. In addition to slicing off his own tongue, Oh Dae-Su discovers a high octane icky revelation that will certainly make future Thanksgiving dinners a little more awkward.
THE VANISHING (1988)
Rex Hofmann (Gene Bervoets) is on a road trip through the French countryside with his girlfriend Wagter ( Johanna ter Steege ). While at a rest stop, Wagter vanishes without a trace and Rex spends several years obsessively searching for her. He eventually meets Wagter’s kidnapper Raymond Lemorne ( Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu ). Raymond agrees to tell Rex what happened to his girlfriend but not before Rex takes a sip of his “specially” brewed coffee. You should never accept a cup of coffee from a crazy Dutchman.
This film is not to be confused with the 1993 Hollywood remake starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland. Its ending isn’t as effectively nihilist as the original and smacks of Hollywood boardroom tinkering. Ironically, the remake was directed by the same guy ( George Sluizer ) who directed the original.
Poe story THE VANISHING most resembles: “The Premature Burial” (1850)
It’s documented that Poe had an irrational fear of being sent into an involuntary dirt nap. Along with “Premature Burial” he wrote two other buried alive themed stories: “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “Berenice.” Poe wasn’t the only one in the 19th century paranoid about a hasty trip underground. Some coffins of the day came equipped with bells that could be rung from the inside in the event you were misdiagnosed as dead or you were sent there because you’re just too status happy on Facebook (indeed, no one cares what you ate for lunch). In The Vanishing, Rex’s obsession with his girlfriend’s fate leads to a premature burial minus the aforementioned “Hey! I’m not dead yet” bell.
THE CROW (1994)
It’s October 30 in Detroit and that means it’s Devil’s Night . Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fianc©e Shelly Webster ( Sofia Shinas ) are brutally murdered. Shelly is beaten and raped and Eric is stabbed, shot and thrown out the window. Exactly one year later, Eric rises from the dead with the help of a Crow of unknown origin and promptly begins to avenge his own murder and that of his beloved Shelly. Corpse reanimation via magical crow is the new Botox.
Poe story THE CROW most resembles: “The Raven” (1845)
Poe’s “The Raven” is about a visit from a talking raven to a man creeping into madness because of his lost love Lenore. The raven is kind of a douche and instigates the poor fellow by constantly repeating the word “nevermore.” It’s one of the most famous poems in American literature and oft parodied. It even made it into The Simpsons third Treehouse of Terror where Bart plays the Raven and Homer the tormented. In The Crow, Draven quotes the poem just before he blows up a pawn shop: “Suddenly, I heard a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. You heard me rapping, right?” Then boom! But aside from Draven taking liberties with Poe before inflicting heavy property damage, The Crow encapsulates a lot of reoccurring Poe themes like premature burial (or in this case premature death as Draven and his fianc© were so young), guilt (Draven wishes he could have done more to save Shelly), revenge (Draven kills everyone involved in his death) and plenty of supernatural elements because you need that sort of thing when rising from the dead.