Episode 5 of Cabinet of Curiosities starts in Arkham, 1909. Rebecca has her portrait drawn by an aspiring artist called Will, who’s forced to make a quick getaway in the morning to avoid being seen by the woman’s father.
Will attends university with other aspiring artists too, and they’re joined by an old man who has his portrait drawn. Will takes his sweet time, meticulously trying to get everything just as it is, but he’s transfixed by fellow student Richard Pickman’s work. Now, rumours are that this Pickman hangs around the cemetery, so Will ends up visiting him late that night.
Pickman is quick to show off numerous sketches of a demonic creature, the manifestation of corruption and misery? Or is it something more?
Richard’s work has a much more disturbing effect on Will the following night. He ends up seeing Richard’s work first-hand over at his place, and with the light swinging across the portrait, he spins out of control and heads outside, promptly throwing up on the floor.
A strange carriage passes though with a disfigured woman inside… which promptly sees Will reawaken in his room, with it now the afternoon. He also begins seeing strange ethereal figures, one of which showing up right behind Rebecca’s father’s head, which gives him quite the fright.
After embarrassing himself at the party, Will is shunned by Rebecca, who points out how important this meeting was to her and how he’s screwed everything up.
We then skip forward to 1926. Will is a well-respected scholar, and he’s also married Rebecca and has a son called James. His boy is quite the artist. However, Will is still experiencing horrible nightmares which haven’t dissipated since his time at college. A picture he receives from Richard Pickman is written off, but Pickman returns with a vengeance, much to Will’s dismay.
Pickman is quite the prolific artist now too and he’s also brought along a few of his paintings too. Will refuses to indulge these pictures, believing them to be a bad omen. Only, that doesn’t stop Pickman from showing up at Will’s place that night.
After an unnerving dinner and beyond, before he leaves, he tells Will that James reminds him of himself.
Will continues to spiral but Pickman offers him a solution – if he heads to his place that night, Pickman promises to stop contacting Will and leave him in peace. Will agrees to the terms and shows up at his place. Pickman leads Will through a narrow passageway, covered with sketches on each of the walls. This alone causes Will to begin panicking and spiralling out of control.
Pickman tries to reach for his sketchbook but Will shoots him dead. As the man bleeds out on the floor, he tells Will that the spirits work through him and they’re not a product of his imagination – but actually real. And now, they’re coming for Will.
With that, a demonic creature rises out of the well and notices the place on fire, a product of Will’s panic a little earlier in the chapter. Anyway, it pulls Pickman’s body into the well, feasting in delight, while Will rushes away.
Unfortunately, Willis not safe and when he notices Joe across the gallery some time later, his face is disfigured with one eye hanging out. Will is enraged and immediately wants Pickman’s work to be destroyed. He implores Gabriel, one of the workers at the gallery, to burn them all and not look at them.
When Will heads home, he tells Rebecca he’s going to do better but she’s too busy chopping in the kitchen. Her face is a mangled mess, ad her eyes are missing.
With blood dripping from her face, she tells Will that he’ll spoil their meal if he’s not careful. “Soon we will feast.” She says, giggling away while the oven smokes. So where is James? Well… inside the oven. Will is shocked, bringing this gory episode to a close.
The Episode Review
The idea of madness and art working hand in hand is not a new concept but the way it’s portrayed here is given a really nice Gothic horror edge. There’s a couple of nice jump scares and an eerie undertone hanging over large parts of the episode too.
The story is pretty good and the camera work and cinematography have been excellent throughout. The ending is, once more, left on an ambiguous cliffhanger but it works pretty well to keep things thought provoking, which seems to be a common thread tying most of these episodes together.