It has occasionally seemed in recent years as if there’s been something of a desire to modernize the portrayal of classic American author Edgar Allan Poe, some impetus to turn the idea of Poe, the person, into a character from the author’s own gothic horror fiction. Who can say where this desire springs from, but it’s given us the awkward likes of 2012’s The Raven, which starred John Cusack as a weathered, alcoholic Poe at the end of his life, hunting down a killer seemingly using methods out of his own macabre fiction. Netflix’s upcoming The Pale Blue Eye, on the other hand, catches Poe at an entirely different time in his life, as a student of the United States Military Academy at West Point. An adaptation of Louis Bayard’s 2003 novel of the same name, the film seems to suggest itself as more of an origin story for Poe’s imagination, as the official synopsis implies:
West Point, 1830. A world-weary detective (Bale) is hired to discreetly investigate the gruesome murder of a cadet. Stymied by the cadets’ code of silence, he enlists one of their own to help unravel the case — a young man the world would come to know as Edgar Allan Poe (Melling).
That leaves us in the more than capable hands of Christian Bale as protagonist Landor, a cold-hearted detective who presumably inspires Poe’s own explorations into detective fiction. Poe, meanwhile, is played by actor Harry Melling, best remembered as Dudley Dursley of the Harry Potter film franchise, although he also memorably appeared in Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit as Harry Beltik.
The first trailer, released today by Netflix, is an icy affair, showing off the cool tones favored by writer-director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Antlers). We’re getting almost a From Hell-type vibe here, a bit of speculative murder history, and one has to wonder how far Cooper will be willing to go in terms of inserting the fantastical into the life of Poe. We’ll just have to see when the film hits Netflix on Jan 6., 2023, following a short theatrical run that begins on Dec. 23, 2022. Classic Christmastime subject matter, right? In the meantime, check out the first trailer for The Pale Blue Eye below.