By Santiago Brion | November 7, 2022
If you’re looking to fill your “Black Mirror”-shaped hole or have “American Horror Story” fatigue, look no further than Academy Award winner Guillermo del Toro’s new anthology series on Netflix called “Cabinet of Curiosities.” Guillermo del Toro is well-known for his celebrated filmography, consisting of movies like “Pan's Labyrinth,” “The Shape of Water,” and “Hellboy,” with gothic, fantasy, and horror elements.
The show is created and executive produced by del Toro, and each episode starts with an introduction from the filmmaker’s titular cabinet, evoking a Rod Sterling-esque role where he’s talking to the camera.
Each episode of “Cabinet of Curiosities'' is made by a different director, displaying a different style while also keeping the same aesthetic from Del Toro’s work. If you’ve seen most of his work, like myself, this is an anthology series that you should definitely get your teeth into. The episodes are ranked based on the quality, story development, performance and direction.
Photo Credit: CineMaterial
8. Lot 36
The first episode, “Lot 36”, is a lackluster beginning in an otherwise good series with a lot of potential. Directed by frequent collaborating cinematographer, Guillermo Navarro, the story takes place in Reagan’s America. It follows a man named Nick who buys the rights to abandoned storage room lots, including a lot which used to belong to a now-deceased old man, and his German seance table with three volumes of demon summoning. The episode unfortunately ends on an ambiguous note, leaving the audience with more questions than answers. Tim Blake Nelson’s performance was good, but the xenophobic nature of his character is a step down from his complex character from HBO’s Watchmen. Nick felt a bit one-note with no compelling characteristics to make him interesting, which is what makes “Lot 36” a flawed first episode of an anthology series.
7. The Outside
The fourth episode, “The Outside”, has a great premise but the execution of the episode is divisive. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, it follows a young woman who is the odd one out working at a bank. When she discovers a beauty product while watching TV, she buys lotion which makes her look beautiful even though she’s allergic to it. The episode has plenty of body horror, but if you do not enjoy that, it is a somewhat cringe-inducing experience. What stands out in “The Outside” is its satire on media consumerism, the commercialization of cosmetics and expected beauty standards. The performances from both comedic actors, Kate Micucci and Martin Starr also make “The Outside” watchable. The ending of the episode drags out, but is made solid by the elements of body horror and comedy.
6. Dreams in the Witch House
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke of “Twilight” fame, “Dreams in the Witch House” is based on a short story from H.P. Lovecraft. The story follows a young man, played by Ron Weasley himself, Rupert Grint, who has to do whatever it takes to find his sister. Taking place in 1900s Massachusetts, the episode itself does a great job of evoking a creepy atmosphere in old New England. Rupert Grint does his best, and the scares and visual effects are great, but it takes awhile for the episode to be interesting. The ending however was a truly shocking one.
5. Pickman’s Model
Following the abysmal “Firestarter” remake that came out this year, director Keith Thomas made an average step up with “Pickman’s Model”. This is another short story adaptation from H.P. Lovecraft and another episode that takes place in 1900s Massachusetts. It follows an aspiring artist who meets another painter specializing in disturbing artwork that can literally haunt someone’s soul. The episode itself was intense, evoking a sense of uncomfortable dread and Lovecraftian atmosphere. What truly sets “Pickman’s Model” apart is Ben Barne’s performance. If only the episode wasn’t unfinished.
4. The Murmuring
Directed by Jennifer Kent of “The Babadook”, “The Murmuring” takes place in the 1950s following Nancy and Edgar Bradley, a bird watching couple who live in a lake house while they do their ornithology work studying rare species. Nancy is haunted by a woman who distracts her from their work and causes her to drift from Edgar. What Jennifer Kent did well with “The Babadook” is combining complex family themes with supernatural horror, and she does that again with “The Murmuring”. While not as great as Kent’s magnum opus, due to its lack of scares, the standout to me in my eyes, is Andrew Lincoln’s career-best performance.
3. Graveyard Rats
Directed by Vincenzo Natali, “Graveyard Rats” follows a man who graverobs for jewelry in the 19th century. When he discovers that rats are also stealing, he does whatever it takes to pay off his debt, even going so far as to go underground to where the rats are. He finds they are not ordinary rats – think the ROUSs (Rodents of Unusual Size) from “The Princess Bride”, but scarier. The exposition of “Graveyard Rats” is a bit much, but the third act is very entertaining with good practical effects from the rodents. If you have Musophobia(the fear of rats), I wouldn’t suggest it, but if you’re willing to dive into a claustrophobic story, give the episode a watch. Safe to say that rats are gross.
2. The Autopsy
Directed by David Prior, “The Autopsy” follows a medical examiner who studies the decomposing bodies that were discovered in the woods. The mystery on where four of the bodies came from is very compelling, with the reveal becoming both satisfying and riveting especially when you get to the third act. Prior previously did “The Empty Man”, a supernatural neo-noir detective mystery/horror film with a big reveal that ends with philosophical ambiguity. Not only does F. Murray Abraham shine in this one, “The Autopsy” gives David Prior so much potential as a promising filmmaker. Trust me, this guy is going to make a masterpiece one day.
1. The Viewing
Directed by Panos Cosmatos, taking place in 1979, it follows 4 strangers who meet up at a fancy house where they all meet up for “The Viewing”. The episode mostly takes place in an empty seating arrangement with a fancy couch. The question on what exactly “The Viewing” is makes this one stand out above the rest. If you really liked “Mandy”, a movie made by Panos starring Nicolas Cage, then you’ll love “The Viewing”. Every performance stood out including “Peacemaker”’s Steve Agee, Sofia Boutella, Eric Andre and Peter Weller. The third act especially might be even talked about as one of the most talked about moments of the year.
“Cabinet of Curiosities” is streaming on Netflix.