This film was inspired by two H.P. Lovecraft tales, “Pickman’s Model” (1927) and “The Haunter of the Dark” (1935). The first is a straightforward tale about an art dealer terrified by the horrific paintings of a talented artist named Pickman—who, it transpires, paints from life rather than imagination. The second concerns a writer who finds himself drawn to an unearthly cathedral housing a particularly malignant evil.
The writer, co-producer, director and editor of this 2009 project was Robert Cappelletto, who previously made the sci fi short “To Oblivion.” As for PICKMAN’S MUSE, it’s already won several awards at various festivals, including the prestigious Oregon-based H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.
Pickman is a painter steadily losing interest in his art. He finds inspiration only after studying a weird cathedral visible from his apartment window. Pickman paints the building and tries to sell the result, but his dealer believes it’s an imitation of a painting by a serial killer/artist named Goodie—who claims, from his current post in a mental hospital, that he painted from life, not imagination.
As for Pickman, he’s inexorably drawn toward the cathedral he glimpsed, and in its depths he finds a box he unwisely opens. From there he finds himself back in his apartment, where an unseen presence awaits him, promising “there’s so much more to see” if he’ll just sign his name. This he does on one of his paintings. A bit later the landlady and her daughter unexpectedly turn up, and are horrified by one of Pickman’s just-finished paintings.
Pickman pays a visit to Goodie in the mental hospital to inquire “what they want from me.” Goodie encourages him to continue painting, which Pickman does…but he also invites a young woman to his apartment with the intention of scooping out her eyeballs!
The scope and subject matter of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model” and “The Haunter of The Dark” are extremely ambitious for a no-budget production like PICKMAN’S MUSE. Director/screenwriter/cinematographer Robert Cappelletto didn’t entirely rise to the challenge, but did a pretty good job nonetheless.
His film (the cheap digital photography aside) is a handsome-looking production with many striking images. Wisely, we’re never actually shown the horrific pictures Pickman paints, which is entirely appropriate (there’s no way to visually convey the sense of unspeakable horror they’re supposed to contain), while the overall atmosphere of languid, muted terror (there are lots of dissolves) is expertly evoked.
The serial killer angle is, I feel, a misstep in an otherwise thoroughly Lovecraftian film, which in its best moments captures a hint of the cosmic horror Lovecraft communicated so brilliantly. The largely amateur cast isn’t terribly inspiring overall, and the music score is a bit over-insistent for my tastes, but there are enough good things in PICKMAN’S MUSE to warrant a definite recommendation.
Director/Screenwriter/Cinematographer/Editor: Robert Cappelletto
Producers: Robert Cappelletto, Eddie Morillon
Cast: Barret Walz, Maurice McNicholas, Tom Lodewyck, Joyce Porter, Mike Dobray, Edy Cullen, Steve Leamy, Jeff Yaezel, Eddie Morillon, Terrence E. Ward, Jeff Christian, Mark Weidling, Fredrick Stone