By Anthony Breznican
Updated June 24, 2011 at 08:31 PM EDT
Credit: Larry Horricks

Given that he wrote about people who were slowly tortured, buried alive, and haunted by seemingly malevolent animals – and also married his 13-year-old cousin — it’s really saying something when you creep-out Edgar Allan Poe.

But that’s what happens in The Raven (out March 9), starring John Cusack as the doomed author in a fictionalized story set in 1849 about the hunt for a serial killer who takes macabre inspiration from his tales.

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The serial killer in The Raven uses inspiration from Poe the way the murder in Se7en borrowed his motif from the Seven Deadly Sins.

“He does one like The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Pit and Pendulum and works through Poe’s stories in an increasingly gruesome way, whilst at same time kidnapping his fiancé,” says director James McTeigue (best known for V For Vendetta).

The fiancé is played by Alice Eve (Crossing Over) and Brendan Gleeson (28 Days Later) co-stars as her father, Colonel Hamilton – who has a combative relationship with her much older husband-to-be.

While this relationship in Poe’s life has been fictionalized, the real Poe was a troubled figure, most likely suffering from depression after the death of his aforementioned young wife, and he was also believed to be an alcoholic. Shortly before his death, the cause of which remains under debate (though the movie will have its theories), he was found wandering in clothes that didn’t belong to him and raving inexplicably.

“We have real elements from Poe’s life, in and out of the story. He was a troubled figure and that’s alluded to in the film. Ultimately he becomes one of the characters in his own story,” McTeigue says.

Cusack was chosen as the lead because the filmmaker felt he could embody both heroism and darkness: “I wanted someone who could show all the demons but ultimately you would connect with him. People respond to him, but I also thought in the character of John Cusack there’s a darker side.”

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