An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at Netflix’s Pickman’s Model. The fifth mini-feature of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities
An artist meets another talented artist whose drawings of monsters and witches appear to come to life and infect his mind.
Is Cabinet of Curiosities: Pickman’s Model (2022) Scary?
Pickman’s Model is definitely the scariest of the Cabinet of Curiosities mini-films but it’s not a high bar to clear. Aside from the few jump scares, there are plenty of unsettling scenes and some gory ones that will make you squirm.
Overall you might actually leave this episode a bit scared especially if you have a friend who is into drawing demonic monsters and murderous witches.
All of our Cabinet of Curiosities Explanations/Reviews:
The episode opens in 1909 in Arkham, Massachusetts, with our main character William Thurber (played by Ben Barnes) drawing his girlfriend Rebecca (played by Oriana Leman) like one of his French girls.
Later Will (I’m not typing William throughout this entire thing) arrives at his art class at the Miskatonic University and we learn he’s an accomplished artist who has won awards in the past. The class gets a new student, middle-aged Richard Pickman (played by Crispin Glover).
The class begins drawing a subject, who is an elderly man holding onto a pole, and after some time Will notices that Richard is going pretty aggressively at his canvas. Unable to mind his own business, Will pretends to wash his hands at a nearby sink and looks at what Richard drawing.
Intrigued by Richard, Will later finds him at a cemetery sketching a dead cat. Richard shows Will some more of his drawings which are of monsters and demonic-like beings eating people. He implies his drawings show the truths of this world which only interests Will further. As Will looks through the drawings we hear distant growling but it’s not clear if Will hears it as well.
The following day Will arrives at the art class just in time to see several art judges angrily leave the studio after seeing Richard’s work. He invites Richard to go out drinking with the boys and Richard, in turn, invites Will to see the rest of his paintings at his apartment.
At the apartment, Will sees some hardcore stuff and Richard basically says “you ain’t seen shit yet.” Pulling back a curtain, Richard shows him a painting while reciting a story his mother told him of his great-grandmother’s great-grandmother, Lavinia.
Lavinia was a witch who was burned at the stake during the Salam witch trials. Before she was killed, Lavinia performed a ritual and killed her husband, serving his still-warm flesh to her coven. The painting behind the curtain is of this meal. Also, that’s some family drama you don’t tell your 5-year-old child.
As Will looks at the painting, he starts to get a headache and hears the people in the painting screaming, laughing, and whispering. The characters in the painting appear to move as Richard says that sometimes at night he hears them under the floor. He then asks Will if he hears them too.
Will runs out of the apartment and vomits out onto the street. A stagecoach passes by and through the small window, he sees a man sucking on a woman’s rotten-looking breast. The stagecoach stops and a woman’s hand beckons him over. For some reason, Will decides to approach and the door opens on its own.
Will looks in and sees only darkness. We get a jump scare as a zombie jumps out and slashes at Will’s chest, cutting him open. Turns out it was just a nightmare… or was it? Will wakes up in bed and when checking his shirt, finds it torn at the chest. His roommate enters and tells him it’s noon causing Will to hurriedly get dressed as he’s late for Rebecca’s tea party.
At the party, Will meets Rebecca’s aunt but gets distracted when he sees the witch walking past in the distance. Rebecca returns with her father and introduces him to Will but Will recognizes him as the man who had that zombie breast all up in his mouth in the stagecoach. As Rebecca’s dad turns, we get a jump scare as the witch appears directly behind him.
Will freaks out and excuses himself. Rebecca chases after him and when he tries to explain, he sees that person he thought was the witch now looks like a normal woman. Rebecca accuses him of being drunk and seemingly breaks up with him.
Will rushes to Richard’s apartment but finds it completely empty save for some drawings on the wall. Seventeen years later, in 1926, Will is now a successful art dealer and runs a gallery. Arriving at home we see that Will is now married to Rebecca and the two have an 8ish-year-old son named James (played by Remy Flint) who likes to draw.
That night Will has a nightmare where his younger self is wandering around a mansion and comes upon twin doors. Opening it, he sees Lavinia serving her husband to her coven. In a small but predictable jump scare, the severed head at the table opens its eyes. The subtle music here really makes this scene.
Will wakes up and heads downstairs where he notices a painting that was delivered earlier. Cutting the strings and opening it, he’s shocked to discover that it’s one of Richard’s paintings depicting a child being eaten by monsters.
He starts to hear the screams of the child and hears the monster chomping down on him. Almost like he’s fighting for control of himself, Will holds his head as he lifts up the knife and is about to plunge it into his forehead.
Luckily Rebecca arrives and Will snaps out of it, quickly covering up the painting. She offers to make him tea and the two walk away. We hear Will ask who dropped off the painting and Rebecca says that it was someone named Pickman who mentioned he was back in town.
Meanwhile, guess what that little shit James is up to? James sneaks into the room with the painting and pulls up the cover to see it. He hears the sounds of the child crying and the monster growling as we cut to black.
Several days later Will mentions to his boss that James has been having trouble sleeping. The conversation is interrupted when a colleague, Joe (played by Seamus Patterson), enters and says he’s invited a special guest. Joe was in the episode earlier as a student with Will but he didn’t do anything important so I didn’t write about him.
Anyway, Joe introduces his special guest, Richard Pickman! DUN DUNN DUNNN. At Joe’s request, Richard has brought along some paintings to show the rest of the group in hopes of putting his paintings on exhibition. Will tries to warn Joe it’s a bad idea but Joe just assumes Will is afraid of competition.
Arriving at home, Rebecca tells Will they have a visitor for dinner and you already know who it is.
After dinner as Richard leaves, he invites Will over to his place to look at some paintings but Will tells him to invite Joe. We see a brief moment of weakness within Richard when he yells out that Joe wouldn’t understand. He begs Will to change his mind and gives him the address in case he does.
Later Will and Rebecca argue over Will becoming distant ever since the painting arrived days ago. Will tells her that something about Richard brings darkness into his life and Rebecca coldly responds that life can’t always be beautiful. So I’m thinking she’s already been infected with whatever the paintings do to people.
That night Will wakes up tied to his bed and, in what is clearly a nightmare, the witch shows up and saws his head off.
Will wakes up to James screaming from his bed having suffered his own nightmare. Rushing to his room, Will sees the witch floating out of the window. The next morning Will grabs his gun and goes to find Richard, finding him at the graveyard.
Richard is taken aback by Will’s aggressive demeanor and appears confused as to why he’s being told to stay away from James. He once again asks Will to go to his house to look at the paintings but Will angrily declines. Richard glances over to something behind Will in fear as if something was coming for him and says Will has to look at the paintings. He then offers to disappear from Will’s life forever and not display his paintings at the exhibition if he agrees to look at the paintings.
Will agrees and the two head for Richard’s mansion. Inside, the walls are lined with drawings of monsters and death. Will notices one of the double doors is the same as his dream. Richard takes Will down a hall and asks him to wait as he heads inside a room. After hearing Richard argue with something, Will heads inside.
At the base of the stairs, Will finds a basement-like room with a large well in the center but no Richard.
Will spots a large can of turpentine and starts spilling it over all the paintings. Richard walks in from another room and Will yells that he has to be stopped while exclaiming that the paintings are like evil infections of madness.
Richard corrects him saying that it’s the world that’s mad and he simply knows where fear lives. He offers to show Will and reaches into his bag, ignoring Will’s cries for him to stop. Will pulls out a gun and as Richard turns, pulling something out of his bag, Will shoots.
A dying Richard says he only paints what he sees and Will picks up what Richard had pulled out of his bag. It’s a photograph of a monster standing by the well, meaning that Richard wasn’t speaking metaphorically about painting what he sees because the monsters in his paintings are very much real.
A loud growl is heard but Will ignores it and sets fire to the paintings. As Richard dies he tells Will it’s time for him to meet what awaits them in the darkness. A monster emerges from the well and growls in anger as it sees the paintings are on fire. A terrified Will falls back onto the ground and watches as the monster grabs Richard.
The monster drags Richard into the well and Will runs safely from the mansion. Sometime later Will and his family arrive at the gallery so Will can make some final preparations before the exhibition opens. His assistant informs him that Joe arrived the night before and hasn’t left yet.
Will finds Joe standing at the end of a hallway featuring many of Richard’s paintings. Shocked as some of the paintings burned in the mansion, Will approaches Joe who appears to be in a trance, chanting something. Joe turns around revealing one of his eyes is bloody and bashed in as he exclaims that “he” is coming for the feast.
Will runs to get Joe help and spots Rebecca and James staring at a monstrous painting. Tearing it off the wall, he checks on the two and they appear to be alright. He sends them home while he gets his assistant to burn all of Richard’s paintings and leaves to get help for Joe.
That night, Will arrives home and while Rebecca chops some vegetables with her back to him, Will apologizes for everything. Rebecca responds by saying she knows where fear lives and turns around revealing she’s cut out her eyes.
Will starts to break down and apologizes for causing this but when Rebecca tells him he’s going to spoil the meal, he demands to know where James is. Smoke emerges from the stove and Rebecca chuckles saying that soon they will feast. Realizing what she’s done, Will opens the stove and sees his son’s head.
Pickman’s Model is good. The acting, dialogue, and story are all good and well done. The story is an adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name and while things are changed to accommodate the change in medium, I think it was done effectively. I will say that the “twist” ending of the monsters being real is more impactful in the short story. It feels like less of a threat in the episode but the ending of the episode with Rebecca killing James is way more shocking in a good way.
Sticking with just a critique of movie since this is Average movie reviews and not Average reading reviews, the episode is definitely my favorite but it does have it’s issue. First and probably what stands out the most is, what is going on with Crispin Glover’s Boston accent in the role? He is laying it on thick, at some points it feels like a parody and I could see some people not being able to get over it.
Pickman’s motivation is also not established or emphasized enough. Why does he need Will to look at the paintings? Why did he leave for 17 years? What was he looking at in the graveyard when he begged Will to look at the paintings? Luckily since the story focuses on Will’s character and life, these questions won’t ruin the episode entirely.
The effects for the moving paintings and the witch were effective but the monster at the end looked a bit comical as opposed to scary. I think if they would have kept it hidden instead of showing it, it would have kept its creepiness. Revealing the monster ruined the “Jaws” effect.
Overall I highly recommend giving Pickman’s Model a watch. It’s not the best horror movie you’ll watch but it’s the creepiest and most unsettling of the Cabinet of Curiousities.
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