The myriad of grotesque, creepy ideas, delectable atmosphere and del Toro’s great intros to each episode will please horror fans right off the bat.
WRITTEN BY JACK RANSOM / NOVEMBER 3, 2022
Certainly one of my most anticipated series’ this year. An 8 episode horror anthology presented by the legendary Guillermo del Toro (who opens each episode in very Hitchcock-like fashion), with each episode directed by a different filmmaker. Delving into everything from Lovecraftian, science fiction, spectral and everyday horrors.
Lot 36 - Guillermo Navarro
A slow-burn opener that follows a bitter ex-veteran (Tim Blake Nelson) who owes a debt to very dangerous people. When he happens upon purchasing a storage lot from a deceased old man, he unlocks more than he bargained for. Tim Blake Nelson may be somewhat miscast here, but he does make Nick’s paranoia and rage palpable. It does creep along, but it pays off with a fantastically disturbing final act.
Graveyard Rats - Vincenzo Natali
My favourite of the anthology. A gloriously grotesque slice of vermin infested campy carnage that scampers along its 35 minute runtime. David Hewlett gives a deviously greedy, hammy and wide-eyed performance as a desperate grace robber. The augmentation of CGI and practical effects is also excellent.
The Autopsy - David Prior
Structurally similar to Lot 36, The Autopsy is a slow burner centring around a seasoned Sheriff (Glynn Turman) who asks an old friend and medical examiner (F. Murray Abraham) to help piece together brutally chilling events. The final section of this episode is genuinely one of the best presentations of sci-fi horror I have seen in a long while. Gruelling stuff.
The Outside - Ana Lily Amirpour
Thematically the obsession with beauty and the perfect appearance has been seen countless times before in the genre and unfortunately this doesn’t bring a whole lot new to the table. However it does have a sickly off-kilter atmosphere, bursts of disturbing imagery and fun performances from Kate Micucci & Dan Stevens.
Pickman’s Model - Keith Thomas
Based on the Lovecraft short story. A successful art student (Ben Barnes) meets a mysterious introverted painter (Crispin Glover), who’s disturbing and haunting works of art begin to plague his mind. A little too slow at times and could have been potentially more with the macabre pairings on display. That being said there is some fantastic gore and the feature is layered with atmosphere.
Dreams in the Witch House - Catherine Hardwicke
Years after his sister’s death, a researcher (Rupert Grint) ventures into a dark mysterious realm with the help of a special drug. Incredibly straightforward in its narrative and there are a couple of wonky performances. However, the set design, a fantastic ghoul of an antagonist and some suitably trippy visuals carry it along.
The Viewing - Panos Cosmatos
A slow burn sci-fi and substance inflicted trip. Great set design capturing the 1979 retro-futuristic time period, a solid cast including Eric Andre, Steve Agee, Sofia Boutella and Robocop himself: Peter Weller. It does meander somewhat (as fun as the performances were, I wasn’t particularly invested in any of the characters) before the intense finale kicks in that will please gore fans.
The Murmuring - Jennifer Kent
The final (and for many) arguably the most anticipated of the shorts. With the excellent The Babadook being genuinely creepy and unique, it’s a shame that for me this slow-burn ghost tragedy was largely forgettable and generic. The performances from Essie Davis & Andrew Lincoln are strong, as is the cinematography. However the scares are few and far between, the story isn’t particularly unique and the pacing does drag.
Overall the Cabinet of Curiosities is certainly worth exploring. The myriad of grotesque, creepy ideas, delectable atmosphere and Del Toro’s great intros to each episode will please horror fans right off the bat. There is no denying that bar a few moments and a couple of episodes, there is nothing wholly revolutionary or completely unique here, and there are a selection that certainly could have been better. However, this was a treat to arrive during the Halloween season and I hope there is more to come