H. P. Lovecraft Collection, The - Volume 4 (DVD)
Directed by Ricardo Harrington, Giovanni Furore and Cathy Welch
Distributed by Lurker Films
H. P. Lovecraft makes for some very intriguing reading, his stories bending the mind's ideas of fear and introducing new terrors to the reader. But how well does that translate in other forms of media? In this review we will be looking at Lurker FiIms' most recent Lovecraft entry, The H. P. Lovecraft Collection - Volume 4: Pickman's Model, in which three different versions of the story are put forth. For those unfamiliar with the Pickman tale, here is a simple synopsis: Mysterious artist Richard Upton Pickman creates some of the world's most disturbing art, but how does he do it? Where do his ideas come from? Only a few are curious enough to dive deep enough into Pickman's lair to find out.
Ricardo Harrington's Pickman's Model
Harrington's Spanish-language entry is the main feature of this 4th volume and has the budget to show for it. It follows the basic premise of the story with a few more characters thrown in, the most competent actors, and very understated set designs. The audience isn't overwhelmed with fancy props or overly theatrical performances, but the problem with this version is that it still manages to be somewhat dull. The plot moves about at a slow pace, and even though the actors are the most believable, out of the three films in this set, it just never grabs hold of you. There's also no payoff as far as the realization that Pickman's ideas are inspired by real-life demons. But hey, at least there are more films than just this one on the disc.
This Italian take on Pickman brought to us by Furore has a very theatrical feel about it. The characters are all exaggerated either by their dialogue or their posture, and Pickman himself is a bent and twisted man in this entry. The artist's lair is packed with very over-the-top decorations that feel almost like they were left over from an amusement park's haunted house. What Furore's design does have going for it, however, is the demon. Though we never see it in action, it is revealed to us via a black and white picture taken by Pickman. The beast from beyond is so disgusting and frightening that the film's flaws just vanish at the thought of that thing lurking in the dark corners of the world.
Cathy Welch's Pickman's Model
This one is where everything seems to come together. Welch has an interesting cast, a creepy Pickman, awesome sets, and just enough gore to satisfy the blood-lust. Here Pickman is a real nasty work of art. His studio is littered with occult and Nazi symbols that give off a vibe of pure evil. The audience never really gets to see the demons from his pit, but a kid's head does get pulled apart, which is pretty bitching. This Pickman's Model captures the 1960's horror atmosphere with trippy dream sequences and very basic make-up techniques and is clearly the strongest and most entertaining of the bunch.
In the Vault
The last two films have nothing to do with Pickman's Model, but their presence isn't unwanted. First up we have In the Vault, which deals with an unkind cemetery man. Not only does he drink on the job, but he also urinates on top of coffins and buries them with the wrong headstones. The old man does get his due when he becomes locked inside a burial vault and the dead aren't too glad to see him.
In the Vault is a CGI film of varying quality. The animation has its issues and so do the lighting effects, but the story is enjoyable and very short. It is narrated in the style of an old scary story, which gives it just enough charm to forgive the technical problems. I wouldn't mind seeing more Lovecraft inspired stories being done in an animated form like this one.
Between the Stars
This last film was made from a small sentence from an unfinished Lovecraft story. Between the Stars is as basic as you can get for a short film. A guy leads a boring life, and his only escape is gazing at the star-filled sky outside his window each night. The minimal dialogue and quirkiness of the lead character do much with the little time this film is given. I suggest checking it out before tackling the three main films.
The extra features of this disc aren't really worth writing home about. Lovecraft fans won't learn much from the interviews, but the booklet included with the DVD is a good read for those interested in the individual films. This would have been better suited as commentary tracks for each short film, but what are ya gonna do?
Though each film has a weakness in one or two areas, when they are all combined in this collection, the good qualities overpower the bad and make for an enjoyable DVD. Had Lurker included some commentaries, the entire affair would have been perfect. That gripe aside, this and the three previous collections should find a home on your DVD shelf right away.
Interviews with scholar Robert M. Price and horror author Ramsey Campbell
Eight-page booklet on Lovecraft and the films
5 out of 5
3 out of 5
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