The Black Cat (2007)
Review by Brian Holcomb
The difficulty in adapting Poe's stories to the screen has often been due to their abstract nature. Reading more like recollected nightmares than standard beat for beat narratives, Poe‘s work operates as a kind of literary rorschach. Readers fill in the blanks with their own imaginations. This abstraction is what keeps Poe relevant today with his repeated use of the “unreliable narrator” that creates a tension as to whether the story is true or merely the ravings of a madman. But the abstraction also applies to the characterizations, of which there is almost none. Failed adaptations either create characters that do not fit the mold of the Poe story or are not sufficient enough to make an impression on screen. Here, Gordon and his long time co-screenwriter Dennis Paoli make a very effective decision to tell the story of “The Black Cat” through the troubled life of the author himself, mixing fact and fiction like a horror movie version of Shakespeare in Love.
In fact, what is told is very much a love story. None other than the great Jeffrey Combs, Dr. Herbert West himself, plays Poe, who once wrote, "Perversity is the human thirst for self torture." As depicted here, Poe is indeed a tortured man. When we meet him, he’s living in Philadelphia and at an all time low. He's struggling...