Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet Of Curiosities Review

Cabinet of Curiosities
Guided by Guillermo Del Toro, this anthology series takes the viewer on a creepy journey through stories that delve into the supernatural and extra-terrestrial. Each episode introduces monsters of different shapes and sizes, but all with the same intention: to cause absolute terror.

by Olly Richards |

Streaming on: Netflix

Episodes viewed: 8 of 8

Acting as producer and presenter, Guillermo del Toro gathers a consortium of horror directors – some well-known (Twilight’s Catherine Hardwicke, The Babadook’s Jennifer Kent), some less so – for this spooky anthology series. Like Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Twilight Zone with more impish menace, each of the eight episodes begins with a brief del Toro monologue to camera as he fiddles with a literal cabinet of curiosities, providing a shivery amuse bouche before the full stomach-flipping meal. Then we’re off into stories that take in everything from aliens to haunted paintings to giant carnivorous rats.

While he doesn’t direct any of the episodes (he has writing/story credits on two), del Toro’s fingerprints are all over the series. Despite their very different tones and aesthetics, each draws something from del Toro’s love of gothic opulence, very black humour, and monsters with an oddly beautiful sculptural quality. There’s a real sense of playfulness to it all, each director confidently taking on the challenge of telling a scary story in less than 60 minutes, and working hard to establish their own world in limited time.

Each episode draws from Del Toro's love of gothic opulence, black humour and oddly beautiful monsters.

As with any anthology series, some episodes are better than others. Pickman’s Model, with Ben Barnes haunted by Crispin Glover’s monstrous art (which looks lifted from someone’s goth Etsy page) stretches a thin conceit. The Viewing, a stylish 70s number about a mysterious billionaire, will no doubt have fans who like its slow, talky take on horror, but it feels out of step with the penny dreadful tone of the others.

The stand-outs are opening episode Lot 36, in which Tim Blake Nelson’s racist curmudgeon gets his comeuppance via an immigrant from another realm; The Murmuring, a sad and eerie tale of an ornithologist (Essie Davis, reuniting with Jennifer Kent) haunted by loss; The Autopsy, powered by F. Murray Abraham’s performance as a pathologist dealing with some very strange deaths; and Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Outside, an 80s-set body-horror/comedy about a meek woman who wants to be beautiful (bonus points for Dan Stevens adding to his roster of camp weirdos).

The horror is of the campfire story kind, scary enough to make you put an extra light on but not aiming to ruin your sleep for the foreseeable. It’s tremendously fun and a great showcase for some emerging horror directors. Hopefully this cabinet has many doors left to open.

A mostly chilling, thrilling selection of scary tales. Guillermo Del Toro has made a selection pack of horror shorts full of ghosts, gore and giggles.
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