What do you know about Edgar Allen Poe? Some might mention his most famous poem, The Raven. Others might call him strange considering he died under mysterious circumstances. Personally, I associate Poe with Baltimore. Did you know that Poe was once a West Point cadet? In the new gothic horror film, Raven’s Hollow, Poe is a curious young man who makes a frightening discovery.
William Moseley stars as Poe, an eager cadet who stumbles upon a disemboweled man in upstate New York. The dying man’s last words lead Poe and his fellow cadets to the neighboring town where residents refuse to talk about the murder. While in town, Poe meets the innkeeper’s daughter, Charlotte (Melanie Zanetti), a beautiful young woman with a disturbing secret. As he digs deeper into the murder, Poe experiences a series of sinister events that will eventually lead him to madness.
In an interview with Digital Trends, Moseley and Zanetti discuss their knowledge of Poe, elaborate on their time in Latvia, and explain how they shaped their characters.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: Melanie, I read that you were interested in doing a gothic period piece before doing Raven’s Hollow. Why did that genre interest you?
Melanie Zanetti: Maybe it was from being 13 and watching Sleepy Hollow a lot. It’s sort of like mysterious and romantic and horrifying about that time that’s always really interested me. I’m interested in the literature from the time, the classics and the romantics, and all of that. And I love a cloak!
William, most people probably don’t know much about Edgar Allan Poe. During your research, did you learn something specific that surprised you?
William Moseley: Yeah. I guess like everybody else, I thought Edgar Allan Poe was just a mad-genius writer who died under some mysterious circumstance. I’ll tell you one really weird thing I did learn about Edgar Allan Poe. It’s not [about] Edgar Allan Poe, but about my personal life. My great-grandfather was a schooner captain, and he used to go from England to Ireland. My grandmother was telling me this when I told her I was playing the part. On the ship, he had a few books and one of them was the Edgar Allan Poe anthology, or whatever it is. So he used to sit on the ship reading Edgar Allan Poe. I mean it’s so crazy.
Zanetti: That’s so cool.
Moseley: That was a really weird coincidence, and that was a really cool thing. She [grandmother] knew a lot of the stories herself and told me about him. Obviously, I just learned that he was a soldier, which I didn’t know. I learned that he was like a family man in some ways. He had children and he tried to live a normal life. He was very critical of other people’s work, which I think ended his own career. [Laughs] He was ruthlessly, ruthlessly critical, which I think didn’t give him many friends. I really enjoyed the process of learning about him.
Charlotte is a character formed who has a tight relationship with her mother, played by Kate Dickie. During your preparation, how were you able to build such a strong mother-daughter relationship?
Zanetti: Well, Kate and I skyped a few times before we got there and really went quite deep into why this bond became so strong. What happened when her husband, or my father, died? What happened when this inciting incident happened? But Kate is just the most incredible actor and human being. When we met once we both got to Latvia, we just connected very strongly, very deeply, very quickly, which worked really well for the film. She’s become such a dear friend. We also created a playlist for our characters that we sent to each other and then started to meld into having a common musical vernacular that we had together as well. We knew that we were listening as we led up to this process.
What songs were on the playlist?
Zanetti: A lot of Nick Cave, and Tom Waits. There was some Billie Eilish. There were some big musical pieces. Yeah, a lot of interesting stuff.
We all think Edgar Allen Poe was this crazy person with a weird ending to his life, but the film presents him as this young, normal cadet. Why was it important to present Edgar as a real person and not as a larger-than-life persona that most people knew him by?
Moseley: I think it’s to show an origin story of Edgar Allen Poe. To show the origins of who he is at the beginning and obviously, who we know who he is at the end. He needs to be relatable. Edgar Allen Poe, which is something I did learn again in my research, was one of the fathers of detective fiction.
So it was an interesting idea to show him as a detective, someone unraveling a story, someone asking questions, and almost [having] a “curiosity killed the cat” vibe. It was quite fun, actually, to play that. Obviously, he descends into madness as the film goes on, but to start him out there was a nice beginning to the arc.
Melanie, you worked with Christopher Hatton before on Battle of the Damned. Do you remember that experience, and how was it working with Chris this time around?
Zanetti: [Laughs] So that was an interesting baptism by fire. I was very theater heavy, [and] that came about in the weirdest situation. He [Christopher] was looking for an actor who could play much younger. There was this poster. I’d just done Romeo and Juliet, and someone put it to him [a poster] and he said, “No, I don’t need a child.”
I was mid-to-late twenties at the time so he was like “Actually, that’s good.” It was a very different experience. We were in Malaysia. It was boiling hot. It was full-on. It was really cool. [Laughs] I hadn’t done a lot of films. I did a bit of TV before that so it was a wild experience. This one was a wild experience but in different ways.
Raven’s Hollow was filmed in Latvia during COVID and by all accounts, it sounded like you were isolated from society. Did that isolation in real life translate over to your performance in the film?
Moseley: Definitely the natural landscape has had a great effect on the film. They built the sets a year in advance for the movie so they played out really well for the desolate village vibe. Also, I think the fact that it was during COVID was also very physically isolating. We couldn’t really spend time with anyone other than just our cast. We don’t speak Latvian so that was a language barrier.
On top of that, it was getting to winter so it was getting colder. There was the feeling of like huddling together, and I think it made for a really nice bond between all of us. We’re all very close friends now. All the other actors, the guys I played with, we all got really close. There’s a nice feeling of this troop going out on their own. We were very fortunate, in that sense. It was obviously a struggle to make a film during COVID, but I think it played well for our film.
Melanie, do you think Charlotte actually cares about Edgar in the film? Sometimes, you think she’s really invested and loves him. Other times, you think she has ulterior motives. What was your take on it?
Zanetti: Well, I think it’s a “yes, and,” situation. There is something about her that is a little arrested in development because she has been stuck in this town because of an event that could have been traumatic early in her life. There are parts of her that are almost 13 [age] in her understanding of relationships, in her understanding of the opposite sex. She is very front-footed in some ways.
There’s something about the power dynamic of a young woman who in that society has no power, but then through these extraordinary circumstances has a lot of power. Also, she’s really attracted to something very new that she hasn’t experienced before so there’s a combination of a lot of things. I think it’s both.
Do you think Edgar actually sees the raven or is it a figment of his imagination?
Moseley: A couple of people have asked that question. I always played it like he could see the raven. I’ve got to play truthfully. I’ve got to play it honest. I’ve got to play it straight. Having done the Narnia films as a child, it was a very similar experience. When we shot with Aslan, you know, it was obviously just an eyeline. When we shot the beavers, it was just an eyeline. Similarly, with the raven, it was like, “Oh, well I’m sort of back to doing what I was doing as a kid.” [Laughs]
I totally believed it was real and it was working and it was fine. I was really happy with the end result because obviously, you have something in your imagination. You don’t know what they’re going to do afterward … It was this mask. It was very cool. It was quite creepy.
Raven’s Hollow is now streaming on Shudder.