Winner of a prestigious student art prize, William is both talented and charming, but his sanity is threatened when he befriends new fellow Richard, whose artwork is disturbingly real and terrifying. Titled ‘Pickman’s Model’, the fifth episode of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft.
The story starts off in 1909 and both the settings and the art theme reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (a classic horror tale in its own right), which was published the same year Lovecraft was born. And then there’s the fact that Ben Barnes played Dorian Gray in a 2009 film. Anyway… as the plot progresses in ‘Pickman’s Model’, it’s easy to see that it lacks the moral depth of Wilde’s work and thus isn’t as grotesque or scary as the creators want it to be.
Ben Barnes plays protagonist William Thurber with the right amount of charisma; but viewers don’t get to know much about the character, making it difficult to care about him at all. He is just a handsome lad who meets a weird dude who draws creepy things that mess with one’s mind. Things get out of hand. End of story. The horror tropes employed were mundane – ugly witches, severed heads, creepy crawlies. Yawn. Yawn. Granted it might have been scary when Lovecraft wrote it, but a 100 years later, the writers of the show needed to add some tweaks to surprise and thrill seasoned fans of the horror genre.
Or maybe the second I compared the story with ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, my expectations from the horror short shot up through the roof, hence the disappointment. Sixty minutes weren’t enough for the onscreen adaptation to do justice to the tale. Although, visually, it was a well-crafted episode, conjuring up a beautifully gothic 20th century America.
It’s a 6.5/10 from me.
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