“Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities” has released the first two episodes to enjoy, and more to come on Netflix. A horror anthology series that comes just in time for Halloween. Each episode is written and directed by different artists. With high production value, I’m already hoping for a second season and we haven’t even finished the first! Presented by Guillermo del Toro in openers reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock, it already has me hooked. With various themes and morals, the series brings to mind Aesop’s Fables. Only with monsters. And this being a del Toro series, they look fantastic.
So let’s dive into the first two episodes of this spooktacular series.
Episode 1: “Lot 36”
Directed by Guillermo Navaro and co-written by Guillermo del Toro. This story opens with the death of an old man (James Neely) and the introduction to Nick Appleton, played fantastically by Tim Blake Nelson. Listening to right wing radio, we get a pretty good idea of just what this character’s about. He’s not kind, he blames others for his problems, and he’s neck deep in debt. Desperate for cash, he bids on abandoned storage compartments, selling any valuable contents and giving the storage owner Eddie (Demetrius Grosse) a cut on the side. Though he very obviously lies about what he’s sold in order to keep most of the money for himself. Lot 36 is his current prize, unaware of what lurks within.
This first episode features some fantastic character actors and a trickle of the supernatural that turns into a deluge by the end. Regardless of being a short story, the production value is high and the color palettes and visuals are reminiscent of “Pan’s Labyrinth” or “The Devil’s Backbone“. Muted with pops of high contrasts. In classic Del Toro fashion, his monsters fascinate with the uniqueness of their designs. This story features a demon that’s wonderfully eldritch and creepy. And while I found the ending to be a bit abrupt, I’m greatly enjoying these little 45 minute horror vignettes.
I give it a 4, on a scale of 5.
Episode 2: “Graveyard Rats”
Directed by Vincenzo Natali and also co-written by Guillermo del Toro. Cemetery owner Masson (David Hewlett) is egotistical and has a tendency to run his mouth thinking he’s waxing poetic. Sinking deeper into debt, Masson digs up graves and sells the valuables left on corpses. But they’re becoming harder to retrieve. Apparently rats are making off with the bodies he intends to pilfer. And after discovering a wealthy corpse that is sure to solve his money problems, Masson makes the plan to dig it up. Only to discover the rats have already made off with it. Having been threatened by his loan sharks, he pursues the corpse-snatchers into the tunnels they’ve made under the cemetery. What he finds there is what happens when greed overtakes fear and becomes your only motivator.
I found this story to be a little rougher than the first, though no less enjoyable. If you don’t like rats or closed spaces, you might have trouble with this one. Without spoiling it, it boasts a fantastic animatronic that deserved more screen time. The story, though, could have used a little cleaning up. Including two monsters instead of one, I wished a bit that one had been chosen over the other. While it did add a little something to the story, I found myself a bit confused as to its purpose other than perhaps as another scary element. So it made the latter half a bit messy. Regardless, I did enjoy it.
I’ll give it a 3, on a scale of 5.
Obviously this series is going to have a range of styles and perspectives that will be fantastic conversation-starters between horror fans. Guillermo described it as “a curation of eight unprecedented and genre-defining sinister narratives meant to challenge traditional notions of horror, ranging from the macabre to magical, gothic to grotesque or classically creepy.” The stories are unique and trying to do something a little different with their themes. I very much got that impression from episode one. I’m excited to see more episodes as they’re released and I’m hopeful that the series might continue past a singular season if there are plans to continue it. As an advocate of practical effects, I’m always excited to monsters you can touch. So far it hasn’t disappointed. And with an anthology series, there are sure to be hundreds of film makers itching for a chance to tell a spooky tale.
“Cabinet of Curiosities” is available to on Netflix. Two episodes will be released on the 26th, 27th, and 28th.