Based on the book of the same name by Louis Bayard, The Pale Blue Eye is a twisty gothic thriller worthy of the classic author it highlights. Like The Cask Of Amontillado, it’s a story of deception and revenge. With a third-act twist that’s as heartbreaking as it is shocking, Netflix’s new addition is a chill tale perfect for a cold winter’s night. With a jam-packed cast including Christain Bale (Augustus Landon, Harry Melling (Edgar Allen Poe, Lucy Boyton (Lea), Gillian Anderson (Mrs. Marquis) and Toby Jones (Dr. Marquis), The Pale Blue Eye is a well-acted, gorgeous piece period that will delight lovers of mystery and lovers of classic literature.
Augustus Landon is called in to investigate when a grisly crime is uncovered at Westpoint Military Academy. His reputation as a shrewd wit inspires the leaders of the school to rise above their ranks before more bodies pile up. Landon befriends another cadet, Edgar Allen Poe, and the two discover family secrets and desperate truths. Along the way, the two forge a relationship that is threatened as the conclusion reveals a betrayal that can never be forgiven.
Although Christain Bale’s Augustus Landor is the investigator and apparent main protagonist of The Pale Blue Eye, the star is unmistakably Harry Melling’s Edgar Allen Poe, whose brand of morose cheekiness blends all the melancholic sheen of the complex man. Here’s everything you need to know about Edgar Allen Poe, who the killer was, and why they did it in The Pale Blue Eye.
Cadet Fry was found dead with his heart cut out in the middle of the night. One cadet saw what he thought was an officer near where Fry was found, and another thought he heard someone crying that night. Unfortunately, that’s all the information Landor has. He enlists the help of eccentric cadet Edgar Allen Poe who quickly begins gathering evidence and proving his intellect. When animals are found mutilated, and then another body is found later, the two must rely on each other to clear Poe’s name and find out who the real killer is.
While all of this is going on, Edgar begins spending time with Dr. Marquis’ daughter, Lea, whom he falls in love with despite being involved with Cadet Ballinger and being very ill. The more time he spends with her, the more he falls in love. Cadet Ballinger becomes jealous of their relationship and attacks Poe, whom Landor saves. Unfortunately, this encounter, coupled with Poe stating that he would kill Ballinger, makes Poe the prime suspect. When a third cadet goes missing, the school is thrown into chaos. Just when things look bleakest, Poe discovers that Lea and Artemus have taken Fry’s heart to try and bargain with the Devil for Lea’s life.
He tells her that he would do anything for her and she asks him to give up his heart. Meanwhile, Landor finds the officer’s coat the cadet saw the night of the murder and a picture of Henry Le Clerc hanging in the Marquis’ office. The Cleric was a witch hunter accused of witchcraft and devil worship. He wrote the book Landor’s friend Pepe told him about earlier in the movie. The book detailed how to communicate with the devil and perform a ritual using a magic circle that could save his life. Artemus and Lea found the book and attempted to perform this ritual. She had only a few months to live and was desperate to survive. When she used Fry’s Heart, she got better for a while, but got worse again. That’s why she asked Edgar to be her sacrifice.
Landor found Poe, Artemus, Lea, and their mother performing the ritual just before killing Poe and rescuing him. Unfortunately, Artemus and Lea were killed in a massive fire when one of the candles was knocked over during the fight. At this point, everything seemed to have been resolved and the movie would end however. There was one final twist in store. Dr. Marquis resigned from the school and Mrs. Marquis was left to fend for herself, having lost her two children. Everyone blamed Artemus and Lea for the cadets’ deaths. Everyone except Cadet Poe.
The End of The Pale Blue Eye
After everything has been resolved, Poe returns to Landor’s cabin and confronts him. He tells Landor he knows about his missing daughter. He claims it came to him while he was sleeping. The first night they met, Poe told her he was still talking to his late mother. Poe accuses Landor of killing cadets Fry and Ballinger for what they did to Landor’s daughter, Mattie.
Three cadets raped her and left her for dead before the events of the film. Landor found her beaten, bloodied and broken. He tried to help her, but she was too traumatized, and she jumped off a cliff and killed herself. Landor told everyone she was missing, but she didn’t run away and he knew exactly where she was. Her death so destroyed Landor that he swore revenge. He knew the younger Fry was involved because of the pendant Mattie came back with after she was raped. However, Fry refused to tell him who else was involved and Landor killed him, thinking that would be the end of it.
When called upon to investigate his own crime, he was given access to everything he needed to identify the other two cadets involved. Fry’s diary gave him the cadet Ballinger, and it was common knowledge that Ballinger, Fry, and Stoddard were close. Stoddard took all his things and fled because he knew he would probably be killed next.
The scene at the start of the film is Landor returning from the academy after killing Fry and washing his hands, literally and figuratively, of everything. Poe was able to figure this all out from the slip of paper left in Cadet Fry’s hand. He recognized the handwriting on the note Landor had left for him.
All Landor had done in the investigation was to find out who else was involved in his daughter’s rape and to cover up his crime. When called back to investigate, he was surprised to find that Fry’s heart had been cut out. Even though Landor had written the note himself, he used Poe’s curiosity to help pin the blame on someone else. It ultimately backfired, however, because Poe was extremely intelligent. After confessing everything to Edgar, Landor goes to the cliff where Mattie jumped from and commits suicide. He no longer has a reason to live with his dead wife and daughter and at least two and possibly the three men who injured his dead daughter.
Who was the killer?
Landor killed Ballinger and Fry. Stoddard is presumed AWOL, but he may also be dead. Landor could have killed him and hidden all his belongings with his corpse. Additionally, Landor cut out Ballinger’s heart and mutilated the animals to make it look like it was all done by the same person. Artemus and Lea never killed anyone. They just used the corpse that fell in their lap. The only thing they were guilty of was mutilating Fry’s body and attempting to sacrifice Edgar, who was a willing participant. An argument could be made that Artemus was a bully and Lea selfish, but they hadn’t become killers yet. They performed several paranormal rituals in an attempt to appeal to the devil, where the magic circle and the candle residue in the cooler came from.
What is the fall of diseases or disease?
The disease Lea suffered from was called falls disease. This caused him to fall to the ground and grab her when she was on a date with Edgar. She was a newly diagnosed sickly girl with only three months to live. Falling sickness, falling sickness, and falling sickness were all names for what we now call epilepsy. Before modern medicine could diagnose and treat epilepsy, it was widely misunderstood. It is less likely that the ritual cured Lea and more likely that she entered a brief period when her epilepsy was inactive.
All Edgar Allen Poe refer to what The Pale Blue Eye symbolizes
Besides one of the main characters being the titillating author, there are several other things taken from his works or what is known about his life. Poe was a gifted storyteller but a troubled soul. He often struggled with depression and drug addiction, and both are present in the fictionalized version of Poe seen in this film. He finds Landor drinking at the tavern and has no trouble shooting Artemus and his friends as he is on his way to becoming the alcoholic he will become later in life.
From Lenore to the ubiquitous crows, there are references to Poe’s works littered throughout The Pale Blue Eye. The title itself refers to one of Poe’s most famous works, The Tell-Tale Heart. A story of guilt and violence, it’s a clue to what happened to the cadets of the military academy. In the story, a man becomes engrossed in the idea that he must kill an older man with a diseased milky eye. The killer believes he can hear voices from hell and must kill the old man. After that, the killer is driven insane (assuming he wasn’t already) by the dead man’s beating heart. The pale blue eye in the story is symbolic of a lack of inner vision or understanding. Landor is stuck or blinded by grief and cannot see a future without revenge.
I think it was his eye! yes that was it! One of his eyes looked like a vulture’s – a pale blue eye, covered in film. Each time he fell on me, my blood froze; and so little by little — very little by little — I decided to take the life of the old man, and thus get rid of the eye forever.
The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe
Poe often wrote about lost love. In Annabel Lee, the speaker loses her love to jealous angels who kill her when they become envious of their love. It is a poem of unbearable suffering and transcendent love. In Lenore, which many believe is his wife Virginia, the speaker talks about one day finding his love in paradise. Just as Poe’s love interest in the movie Lea was dying of an illness, the writer tragically lost several wives to tuberculosis in real life. Landor was another tragic character who lost the two women he loved.
Ultimately, The Pale Blue Eye is a sad story of heartbreak, violence, and revenge. Melling is fantastic and the new version of Poe is fun. You can see the twist coming, but it’s an easy watch on a chilly weekend. It is currently in theaters and on Netflix.
Tracy Palm Tree
As the editor of Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the editor.
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