A Gothic, Poe-Inspired Murder Mystery


2022 has been a solid year for horror and thriller fans with Hellraiser, Smile, and Prey. The trend will continue into 2023, with The Pale Blue Eye starring Christian Bale, Harry Melling, and Gillian Anderson and directed by Scott Cooper. The film is based on a novel of the same name by author Louis Bayard.

The production has been scant on details so far, but just the base story is a pretty cool one. In the days of yore, Bale plays Landor, a retired, weary detective who gets back in the game to investigate a murder at West Point Academy. Among the cadets is a young and presumably brooding Edgar Allan Poe (Melling). The celebrated scribe assists the detective in his efforts, using his grim observational mind to get inside the mind of the murderer.


With its pitch-black premise, living legend leading man, and great supporting cast, The Pale Blue Eye could very well start the new year with a special thriller. Dropping Christian Bale into an Edgar Allan Poe-influenced period film sounds like a slam dunk, but then again, so did Halloween Ends. All we had to go on until now was one still of Bale in character. We finally got a brief glimpse of The Pale Blue Eye with its teaser trailer dropping this week.

The footage is a choppy mishmash of frame-by-frame shots, but it gives us a glimpse at the bleak tone and setting of the film, which will be released on Netflix on January 6, 2023.

There’s a Murder Mystery to Solve

The trailer begins with a group of baby blue uniform-clad cadets roaming winter woods (sounds like a Poe b-side already). They traverse past snow-capped rocks lining an icy and fast-flowing river. Someone calls out to their captain from a narrow gap in a mountain with the macabre announcement that sets up the film — “Up here! There’s a body!” That’s all we need to know about the movie going in. We have a murder on our hands; now, who will solve it?

Related: Netflix’s The Watcher: How Much of the Story Is True?

The scenery shifts to a figure standing on a snowy cliff staring down from a dizzying height at a frozen body of water. We don’t quite know where the body has been discovered. Splayed out on the mountain? The gory imagery will have to wait until January or a more revealing trailer.

That Deathly Pale Blue Eye


Then starts the overdub of a presumably Poe-penned poem recited by Melling: “Down, down, down came the hot thr­­ashing flurry,” reads Melling, “Darkest night, black with hell-charneled fury, leaving only that deathly pale blue eye.” The prose slithers along the remainder of the trailer, giving a deeper effect to the gritty blackness of the footage. ­

We cut away from the cliff to a more sprawling landscape shot, with a horse-drawn carriage lumbering along a frozen lake, presumably carrying Bale’s Landor en route to West Point to start his investigation. Cadets in formation present arms in their stately blue uniforms, including the baby-faced gothic giant in waiting, Edgar Allan Poe. We only get a quick glance at Melling in character in this portion of the trailer. A terrified blonde hair, blue-clad woman comes across the screen, followed by a figure holding a lantern up to the increasing darkness ahead of them.

The Trailer Gets Bleaker and Bleaker


We get a direct overhead shot of more harrowing winter-encased forestry; trees bare of leaves looking like magnified hairs standing up on your arm. Cadets and officers surround Landor as they all peer at something likely horrifying off-screen. Bale sports a strange posture in the cut, lending to what might be an extremely peculiar and eccentric character in Landor.

Related: Christian Bale’s Gothic Horror Movie The Pale Blue Eye Goes Straight to Netflix

A close-up of Landor follows, with the detective jabbing a knife into frozen soil, maybe in search of a clue to the murder that wrestled him out of his early retirement. A raven lands on a winter-deadened branch and sounds off loudly into the void with a glass-domed building in the background. We get a closer look at Melling’s Poe for a brief moment, but that’s enough to show us the actor’s strong likeness to the “Tomahawk Man” himself.

We get a flash of a violent struggle in the dark, maybe our catalyzing murder. The pace of the trailer speeds up here, with Landor seen sobbing up against a wall, a woman in a twirling dress, and another falling onto her back in the snow.

In the next few shots, we see Gillian Anderson in costume by candlelight, a knife changing hands, and Landor winding up and striking at an unseen figure. The trailer ends in solid black as the creepy score hits its final notes.

The trailer doesn’t give us much but a taste of the film’s tone, which is enticing. It comes off as a darker Revenant in the limited footage. This movie has the potential to be a living, live-action Poe piece. That’s more than enough to get us excited about The Pale Blue Eye.


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