If you're even remotely a fan of Lovecraft you know all about Richard Upton Pickman. In case you don't I'll get you up to speed: he paints bad stuff. But what if he also obsessively gazed at the old abandoned Starry Wisdom church up on Federal Hill? So basically if The Haunter of the Dark got its chocolate in Pickman's Model's peanut butter you'd get the events depicted in this film.

hey cool
Generally classy independent Lovecraft movie
but YUCK
Perhaps applied with a bit more force than necessary

I like to get my greedy hands on all this cottage industry Lovecraft stuff, as anything like a true Lovecraft experience cannot be found in movie factory product. I'm such a junkie for Lovecraftian horror that as long as you don't make a too awfully clumsy or overblown mess of it I'm going to trip. Sadly most movies flaunting the L word are exactly a clumsy overblown mess, and add even quite a few more similar adjectives.

I feel like things are getting better though. It clenches my soul to say anything that could be construed as optimistic, but I have to admit I've seen a number of pretty damn decent Lovecraft movies lately. Movie making technology is now in the hands of fringe weirdos, more outlets available, and more actual Lovecraft cultists, the people who get it, are making real movies.

I'm saying this isn't bad, so it's good. It's got proper Lovecrafty stuff like shots of dreary Providence and people not having sex and extra-dimensional space things cutting out insane artists's eyeballs if they don't paint abominations so horrible you can't even imagine.

I kind of appreciate that they didn't actually try to show the paintings. That's the big choice a filmmaker has to make in presenting most Lovecraft stories. Do you show it? (Or in the case of The Music of Erich Zann do you play it?) These things are supposed to shatter the viewer's sanity and leave him muttering and scribbling on the walls in Arkham Sanitarium. Movies can't really do that, and even if they could I imagine it would hurt ticket sales. But movies are a visual media, and if all they're going to do is tell you there's something scary offscreen then you might as well just read the book right?

Well that's the question. My personal feeling is you can do it either way, or anything any way, as long as you do it well. An understated movie that doesn't show its naughty bits can still be very effective if it nails the vibe. On the other hand, even though insanity-driving horrors cannot be depicted, you can still show something fantastic.

The problem with Lovecraft stories is in the first place his characters are basically null, and in the second the images are meant to be so unutterably confounding to the human brain that you have to show something really really fantastic to even be in the ball park. I'm saying either way it's hard to do Lovecraft, and slightly above average is pretty much the bar.

Which is how I'd describe this movie. Yeah some of the acting is a bit forced, demonic voices a little too demony, crazy artist in the asylum a little too crazy, ending a bit telegraphed, but I thought the main guy was suitably tormented and the squishing together of the two stories didn't provoke too much indignant harrumphing of my delicate Lovecraft purist sensibilities. And at the end of the day I'd rather see no painting than a big comic book werewolf or something.

Pickman's Model is one of the more popular of HPL's stories for short film adaptation, so while we're here conveniently talking about it I'd like to recommend, nay demand, that you track down yourself a copy of The H.P. Lovecraft Collection volume 4, Pickman's Model, which as you read this may or may not still be in production and available from Arkham Bazaar. It features 3 fairly substantial short films of the story, with the centrepiece being a Chilean production titled Chilean Gothic which is my personal favourite of all adaptations, including this one. It's full of dark city alleys and dripping tunnels and sewer rats and the madness of doom and all that classic Gothic horror atmosphere.

Oh and get all the other volumes too. There's some must own stuff in there for the connoisseur and the collection is mostly free of the really low grade productions one encounters in the dark recesses of amateur Lovecraft cinema. What else are you going to buy, the dozenth special edition of Halloween?