What do you know about Edgar Allen Poe? Some may mention his most famous poem, Crow. Others might call it strange considering he died mysteriously. Personally, I associate Poe with Baltimore. Did you know that Poe was once a West Point cadet? In a new gothic horror film, crow holePoe is a curious young man who makes a terrifying discovery.
William Moseley stars as Poe, a passionate cadet who finds a man without entrails in upstate New York. The dying man’s last words lead Poe and his fellow cadets to a neighboring town where the 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 discussed their knowledge of Poe, outlined their time in Latvia, and explained how they shaped their character.
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 it crow hole. Why did the genre interest you?
Melanie Zanetti: Maybe from 13 years old and watching Sleepy Hollow many. It’s kind of mysterious and romantic and horrifying about that time that’s always really intrigued me. I am interested in literature from the time, classical and romantic, and all that. And I love robes!
William, most people probably don’t know much about Edgar Allan Poe. During your research, did you learn anything specific that surprised you?
William Moseley: Yes. I guess like everyone else, I thought Edgar Allan Poe was just a crazy genius writer who died under mysterious circumstances. I’m going to tell you one very strange thing I learned about Edgar Allan Poe. Not this one [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 said this when I told her I was playing the role. On the ship, he had several books and one of them was an Edgar Allan Poe anthology, or whatever. So he used to sit on the boat reading Edgar Allan Poe. I mean it’s so crazy.
Zanetti: It is very cool.
Moseley: That’s a really weird coincidence, and it’s a really cool thing. He [grandmother] know many stories myself and tell me about him. Obviously, I just found out that he was a soldier, which I didn’t know. I learned that he was like a family man in some ways. She has a child and she is trying to live a normal life. He was very critical of other people’s work, which in my opinion ended his own career. [Laughs] He cruelly cruelly critical, which I don’t think has given him many friends. I really enjoyed learning about him.
Charlotte is a formed character who has a close relationship with her mother, played by Kate Dickie. During your preparation, how did you build such a strong mother-daughter relationship?
Zanetti: Well, Kate and I Skyped a few times before we got there and really went deeper into why this bond has become so strong. What happens when her husband, or my father, dies? What happened when this inciting incident occurred? But Kate is simply the most incredible actor and human. When we met as soon as we both arrived in Latvia, we just connected very strongly, very deeply, very quickly, which works really well for this film. He has become a good friend. We also create playlists for our characters that we send to each other and then start blending in to have a common musical language that we have in common too. We know we are listening as we lead this process.
What songs are on the playlist?
Zanetti: Lots of Nick Cave, and Tom Waits. There are several Billie Eilish. There are some great pieces of music. Yes, lots of interesting stuff.
We all thought Edgar Allen Poe was a lunatic with a strange ending to his life, but this film features him as a normal young cadet. Why is it important to present Edgar as a real person and not as the larger-than-life person that most people know him?
Moseley: I thought it was to show the origin story of Edgar Allen Poe. To show the origins of who he is at the beginning and clear, who we know who he is at the end. He must be relatable. Edgar Allen Poe, whom I studied 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 who unraveled stories, someone who asked questions, and almost— [having] “curiosity kills the cat” vibe. It was quite fun, actually, to play it. Obviously, he’s going crazy as the film progresses, but to begin with, there’s a great start to his arc.
Melanie, have you worked with Christopher Hatton before The Cursed Battle. Do you remember that experience, and how it worked out with Chris this time?
Zanetti: [Laughs] So it was an interesting baptism of fire. I’m very heavy theater, [and] that happens in the most bizarre situations. He [Christopher] is looking for an actor who can play much younger. There’s this poster. I just finished Romeo and Juliet, and someone put it on him [a poster] and she said, “No, I don’t need a child.”
I was in my mid to late twenties at the time so he was like “Actually, that’s great.” It was a very different experience. We are in Malaysia. It was boiling hot. It’s full. It is very cool. [Laughs] I don’t do a lot of movies. I did a bit of TV before that so it was a wild experience. This one is a wild experience but in a different way.
crow hole filmed in Latvia during COVID and after all, it looks like you are isolated from society. Does that alienation in real life translate into your appearance in the movies?
Moseley: Obviously the natural scenery has a great effect on the film. They built the set a year in advance for the film so they played really well for a quiet village setting. 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 it was a language barrier.
Especially when it was already winter so it was getting colder. There was a feeling of being huddled together, and I think it made a really good bond between all of us. We are all very close friends now. All the other actors, the people I played with, we all became very close. There was a nice feeling of this troop going off on their own. We are very lucky, in that regard. It was definitely a struggle to make a film during COVID, but I think it played well for our film.
Melanie, do you think Charlotte really cared about Edgar in that movie? Sometimes, you think he’s really invested in and in love with him. Other times, you think he has ulterior motives. What do you think about that?
Zanetti: Well, I think it’s a “yes, and” situation. There was something about him that was a bit stifled in his development as he had been trapped in this city due to an event that could have been traumatic earlier in his life. There’s a part of him that’s almost 13 [age] in his understanding of relationships, in his understanding of the opposite sex. He is very front-footed in a number of ways.
There is something about the power dynamics of a young woman who in that society has no power, but then through these extraordinary circumstances has a lot of power. Also, he was really interested in something very new that he had never experienced before, so there was a combination of things. I think it’s both.
Do you think Edgar really saw the crow or is it just a figment of his imagination?
Moseley: Several people have asked that question. I always played him like he could see a crow. I have to play honestly. I have to play it honestly. I have to play it straight. After doing Narnia movies as a child, it was a very similar experience. When we shot with Aslan, you know, it was definitely just an eye line. When we shoot the beaver, it’s just an eye line. Similarly, with crows, it’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m back to doing what I did as a kid.” [Laughs]
I really believe it’s real and it works and it’s fine. I am very happy with the end result because clearly, you have something in your imagination. You don’t know what they’ll do afterward… That’s this mask. It is very cool. That’s pretty scary.
crow hole now streaming on Shudder.