Stream to Scream: “DORIAN GRAY”Columns,Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s available, FANGORIA is taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with Stream to Scream. Today: Oliver Parker’s unsettling take on DORIAN GRAY!
Of all the legends and tales tied to horror, this writer has always been surprised by how little Oscar Wilde’s THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY is implicitly honored within the genre. After all, Gray’s Faustian tale of depravity is rooted in such dark corners of human behavior that one would think he’d get the same attention as the likes of Dr. Jekyll and Victor Frankenstein. However, the most recent big screen take on the tale, Oliver Parker’s DORIAN GRAY, is a worthwhile venture; more of a character study than out-and-out horror tale, there’s still enough dread-inducing darkness in the picture to satisfy genre fans.
For those unfamiliar, DORIAN GRAY follows a Victorian London socialite who makes a pact with the devil, transferring his age, wounds and sins onto a painting of himself while maintaining his physical youth and beauty. However, the power leads him down a dark path, one of decadence and sadism that costs him everything. It’s a genuinely classic tale of corruption and penance, and while there isn’t much in the way of straightforward scares, there’s a foreboding atmosphere to the proceedings that does eventually bring the story to bloody places.
Although Toby Finlay’s screenplay streamlines the story of the novel quite well, DORIAN GRAY works best in it’s quieter moments where the nuances of the character and his indulgences truly come to life. That’s not to say the film itself is a bore or lacking in personality; the dialogue itself provides a great sense of wit that feels wonderfully in the vein of Wilde’s vision. And while the film is mostly a slow burn for its genre elements to come to life, there’s an intense atmosphere throughout DORIAN GRAY that keeps the film from dragging or becoming too stale at any given moment.
Of course, this can be attributed to director Oliver Parker, whose previous cinematic endeavors would qualify him to bring the story to the big screen with a realistic, classy backdrop. Parker puts all the tools at his behest to good use, making the most of the production value that comes with the location, wardrobe and talent associated. Perhaps the only real criticism this writer would have of his direction is the lack of experimentation behind the camera, as there’s a sense of safety and regularity through the visual composition of the story that feels unfit for a tale of such depravity. That’s not to say Roger Pratt’s cinematography is lackluster, but it’s also not engaging beyond the standard sense of narrative storytelling.
However, the film itself is elevated by the amount of truly great performances on display, lead by a great Ben Barnes as the titular creep. Barnes revels in the role of DORIAN GRAY, with an aura of mischief and recklessness exuding from his physicality that sells the performance completely. Likewise, Colin Firth seems to be having a blast as Lord Watton, chewing scenery with an infectious charisma and, occasionally, intimidating poise. And supporting performances from Rebecca Hall, Ben Chaplin and Max Irons also impressively help sell the reality of the film, each playing off Barnes with impressive ease.
Overall, while mechanical in design, DORIAN GRAY is definitely one of the more impressive additions to the FANGORIA Hulu page, offering production value and acting unseen by some of our more microbudgeted entries. Capturing the spirit of Wilde’s story, DORIAN GRAY is creepy and entrancing, with director Parker not afraid to examine the character, rather than explore his supernatural leanings to the T. And with great actors at his side, Parker does well with DORIAN GRAY, even if the film merely flirts with the dark depths of the character’s depravity.