In 1931 H.P. Lovecraft wrote his classic tale of alien horror, "The Whisperer in Darkness". Lovecraft is now considered one of America's foremost writers of horror fiction, standing alongside the likes of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe.
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Who is Goodie Hines? Why did he gouge out the eyes of his victims? Why did they beg him to do it? What could possibly have inspired such horrific imagery in his drawings and paintings that they've been banned--only to be duplicated to seemingly impossible detail by mild-mannered recluse, Robert Pickman, who claims never to have met Goodie nor seen his work, but refuses to reveal his sources? Dare we delve the mind of one dissolving into madness, to uncover his muse? Written by
Pickman's Muse is a good film marred by a few serious flaws.
Pickman's Muse tells the story of an artist's descent into madness and draws a heavy influence from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. There are a few moments in the film that manage to catch a true sense of dread and mystery, but unfortunately it falls a little short of being a truly remarkable film, and a country mile short of being as effective as the stories which inspired it.
The script and direction are both adequate, with the latter occasionally being excellent - there are some truly striking shots in this movie, along with a good use of colour and lighting to evoke a strong atmosphere. Although it does suffer fairly severely from teal-and-orange syndrome, an effect that I'm getting a little tired of, there's enough variation in palette to keep things interesting.
The sound and music in the film is a very strong point. Music is generally subtle, ambient buzzing, and there's often some kind of repetitive or pulsating background noise, and effect that is mirrored in the lighting in a number of scenes. This fairly effectively creates an oppressive atmosphere and makes one slightly uneasy.
Unfortunately, the film is marred by acting which is in many cases quite flat. Most lines are delivered ploddingly and don't feel natural at all, and as a result it becomes difficult to relate to the characters on screen in any meaningful way. The script does little to help in this department. As I said earlier, it's generally adequate but there are some very predictable or cliché moments.
It's unfortunate that the strongest reaction this film manages to elicit is unease - there was a chance here to make a really disturbing piece, that echoed the darkness and madness of the source material, but Pickman's Muse doesn't quite make the grade.
Still, the film is a good watch with a decent central story, and it makes a refreshing change from most horror films on the market - Pickman's Muse focuses neither on gore nor on sudden shocks or cheap shots, but rather on a subtle, unsettling atmosphere. This is a type of horror film I'd like to see more of, but hopefully through better executed, more effective films than Pickman's Muse.
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