When Guillermo del Toro walks onto a dark stage at the beginning of every episode of cabinet of curiositiesis channeling horror icons from Rod Serling to Alfred Hitchcock to Jordan Peele to Crypt Keeper on shows like the twilight zone and its rebirths, night gallery, Tales from the CryptY alfred hitchcock presents. cabinet of curiosities It self-consciously operates in the tradition of those and other horror anthologies, telling stories that are comfortingly familiar in their creepiness.
Del Toro isn’t as charismatic on screen as those other horror hosts, but his enthusiasm is obvious as he introduces each episode, rummaging through his own cabinet of curiosities and pulling out little totem poles to represent titles and directors. Del Toro himself does not direct any of the eight episodes of the first season, but two of them are based on his stories. He enlists an impressive lineup of horror filmmakers to direct an episode each, along with his frequent collaborator Guillermo Navarro, who directs the opening episode, “Lot 36.”
The two-episode premiere also includes “Graveyard Rats,” directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, in the tall grass) and based on a short story by Henry Kuttner. At 38 minutes, “Graveyard Rats” is the shortest and cheapest episode of the season, while most others cabinet of curiosities installments last about an hour. That’s way too long for these kinds of anthology stories, and episodes tend to drag on a bit in the middle. “Graveyard Rats,” about a cemetery caretaker with a side business in grave robbing that is plagued by ravenous and relentless rats, is entertainingly macabre, with an old-school EC Comics flair and an enjoyable lead performance from David Hewlett. .
most of cabinet of curiositiesThe episodes are based on short stories, some of them classics that have been previously adapted into other films and television series, including two by HP Lovecraft. The only episode without original material is “The Viewing,” from director/co-writer Panos Cosmatos (Mandy, beyond the black rainbow). It is most clearly identifiable as the work of a distinctive filmmaker, in the same cosmic psychedelic style as Cosmatos’ earlier work. Like many of these episodes, it’s an acting showcase, with Peter Weller making the most of his role as an eccentric, wealthy recluse who summons a group of luminaries from various camps to witness a strange discovery.
Tim Blake Nelson gets some well-deserved attention as the star of “Lot 36,” based on Del Toro’s short story, as a mean-spirited, angry military veteran who buys a cursed storage unit. many of cabinet of curiositiesThe episodes are period pieces, and “Lot 36” takes place around the first Gulf War in the early ’90s, with Nelson’s veteran expressing white supremacist views that make it all the more satisfying to see him get his comeuppance. It’s a simple but effective narrative that goes exactly where it seems to go, but it’s still fun to see how it gets there.
F. Murray Abraham also dominates the screen in what amounts to a one-man sideshow in cabinet of curiositiesstrongest episode, “The Autopsy”, from the empty man Director David Prior and based on a story by Michael Shea. Abraham plays a medical examiner who performs autopsies on a group of miners who died in an explosion that may have extraterrestrial origins. The episode spends too much time on setup, but once Abraham’s grizzled doctor is alone in a makeshift morgue with the bodies, it’s satisfyingly horrifying. Abraham conveys the weariness of a man who is nearing the end of his life but who is not willing to go down without a fight either.
Not every episode is successful, and “The Outside” sticks to its one-joke premise about an insecure woman (Kate Micucci) who becomes obsessed with a disgusting cream that’s supposed to beautify her. Working from a short story by Emily Carroll, director Ana Lily Amirpour uses exaggerated camera angles, sing-song music and tacky production design to illustrate tense points about toxic beauty standards and social pressure. Dan Stevens is funny as a sleazy TV host who peddles the odd goop, but his presence is minimal and only serves to underline the obvious.
the good of cabinet of curiosities – and any anthology series – is that if one installment is a flop, there’s a whole new story waiting in the next episode. Del Toro is enough of a force in the world of horror that he can recruit some of the best filmmakers to contribute to the series, and other episodes are directed by Keith Thomas (the vigil), Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) and Jennifer Kent (the babadook). The eight episodes of the first season offer a glimpse of what del Toro has to offer, and if cabinet of curiosities can stay longer than Peele’s new Twilight Zoneit has a lot of potential to attract new horrors.
Two episodes of Cabinet of Curiosities premiere each day from October 25 to 28 on Netflix.