Pickman's Muse (2010)
Based on 'The Haunter in the Dark' with elements of 'Pickman's Model'.
Robert Pickman is a lonesome, slightly neurotic art that lives and paints in his top story studio in a rundown apartment block. His work is a slump as he's disillusioned with the commercial paintings he has to churn out for his agent. Sitting alone in his studio starring at a blank canvas he becomes more and more isolated and withdrawn into his own world.
This soon changes as he is woken one morning by a beam of light that shines into his normally dull garret. Going to the window, he sees a church steeple surround by sunlight. The image affects him deeply as he commences to paint and sketch my pieces with the church as the inspiration. He shuns all contact even that of his only friend and physician, Ambrose Dexter.
When he takes one of his latest painting to sell to his agent, the agent is shocked by the similarity of the work former artist, Goodie Hines who was committed for multiple murders. Pickman learns that the killer is in the local asylum and is being treated by Dr Dexter. The Church up on Federal Hill soon becomes Pickman's full concern. Voices in his head call to him and he is compelled to visit the ruined Church. Up in the steep, he uncovers a box containing a glowing gem.
The artist blacks out and awakens in his studio. The voices in his head get worse. They influence his work to become darker and more horrific.
Dexter, too, notices Pickman's work and its subject matter is similar to his infamous patient. He investigates the Church which seems to be the obsession of both artists and discovered it is owned by a cult called 'The Starry Wisdom'. This is a phrase he's heard Hines utter on many occasions. Meanwhile, Pickman is descending further into madness prompted by the voices. He kidnaps Dexter and under false pretences he visits Goodie Hines. The killer 'enlightens' him about the Starry Wisdom and how to liberate his soul. He returns to his studio, kidnapping the landlady's daughter. As Dexter trys to escape, Pickman attempts to kill him only to be rescued by a colleague of the Doctor who noticed that he was missing.
They subdue Pickman and he is interred in a cell next to Hines. The killer screams 'The Darkness is coming...He's coming for you...'. Pickman is found the next day with his eyes torn out.
Despite its low budget, Pickman's Muse is an excellent example of good Lovecraftian cinema. Its slow and moody leaving much of the horror up to our imaginations. The acting is adequate with the exception of the lead, Barret Walz, who does a great interpretation of a man slowing losing his sanity. The film makes great use of locations especially the ruined church and its set and model design don't show any sign of its limited funds. One of the strongest elements of the film is its cinematography and lighting. Shots are well framed and the use of almost surreal lighting makes it look a lot better than films with 4 times its budget. This combined with a chilling score makes for a chilling atmosphere.
The Writer/director is obviously a fan of Lovecraft and shows great respect to the material. I really look forward to what he does next. Fingers crossed it will be another dark journey into my favourite mythos.
- In the Story, the main character is called 'Robert Blake' not Robert Upton.
- The agent when talking about Hines' nightmare images said that they looked like they were 'painted from a photograph' - an obvious reference to Pickman's Model.