GUILLERMO DEL TORO'S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES -- Del Toro Does It Again With This Crazy, Weird Assortment of Stories
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Guillermo Del Toro is a filmmaker who likes to create weird and out-of-the-ordinary types of characters and stories. His early work --Chronos, The Devil's Backbone, and Pan's Labyrinth — are prime examples of this style. His last film Nightmare Alley, was a little more straightforward, though. He gets back to the weird and out-of-the-ordinary stories and characters with the help of some relatively known directors, actors, and writers who have a similar sense of taste in storytelling as Del Toro does in Cabinet of Curiosities.
Cabinet of Curiosities is an anthology series produced and hosted by Guillermo Del Toro. It features eight episodes from various directors, each with a distinct eye for the macabre, including Ana Lily Amirpour, Jennifer Kent, and Cathrine Hardwicke. They all happen to be female directors. This series is similar to The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, albeit to another level. It is a bloody, gruesome show that goes beyond the boundaries of what can be seen on television or, in this case, streaming.
The best episode of the series is "The Murmuring," about a couple of bird watchers, Edgar and his wife (Andrew Lincoln, Essie Davis). They go to a secluded island to study birds but get more than they bargained for involving the previous residents of a house they are staying at on the island. This is episode eight, and I thought the direction by Jennifer Kent and the look and feel of the episode was good. The story is based on an original concept by Guillermo Del Toro and has some nice suspenseful moments.
"Dreams in the Witch House" has many moving parts, but like "The Murmuring," it has an underlying story that keeps the viewer in suspense. This one has some cool visual effects and creepy cinematography. Catherine Hardwick kept the story by Mika Watkins, based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, moving nicely. There weren't a lot of slow moments. The acting by all, including Rupert Grint (the Harry Potter franchise) and Ismael Cruz Cordova (The Rings of Power), was very good.
And "The Outside," directed by Ana Lily Amirpour and starring Kate Micucci, Martin Starr, and Dan Stevens, was a very interesting episode. It really uncovered a thing in this country and the world that has been going on for a while: how beauty is only skin deep, but people, especially women, are so concerned by it.
The worst of the eight episodes was "The Viewing," directed by Panos Cosmatos, not because of the episode's look but how it ended. It started interesting, the setting was beautiful and fascinating, and the cast was very good, but the ending wasn't there. Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart Ahn just dropped the ball on the ending of this episode.
Another episode with a bad ending was "Graveyard Rats," directed by Vincenzo Natali. The main character, played by David Hewlett, was engaging, and his plight was interesting to follow along with. The claustrophobia was pretty scary at times, and the rats were a bit creepy. It just didn't feel like it ended right.
"Lot 36," directed by Guillermo Navarro and starring Tim Blake Nelson, isn't anything special. I liked the performance by Nelson as this shady storage lot dealer and treasure hunter. I always like seeing him in films and television shows. It has some cool visual effects and a fascinating story based on a short story by Henry Kuttner.
Another episode called The Autopsy was bizarre, but it starred Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham. It's a pleasant surprise to see him in things these days. He's not in a lot of films or television shows anymore. The direction by David Prior was a bit disjointed, though. I just couldn't get a good feel for this episode.
"Pickman's Model" was one as I was watching it I had high hopes for. The cast, including Ben Barnes and Chrispin Glover, was pretty good in it, but the idea behind the story was the real aspect I liked. The director Keith Thomas, adapting another H.P. Lovecraft short story, did a good job showing the creepiness of the world he was setting up. It just didn't come all the way home for me.
Guillermo Del Toro has created a great series of creepy, weird tales of suspense and terror. He has assembled a great group of directors with unique storytelling styles. The cast in the episodes was very good as well. Actors like Nelson, Abraham, and Kate Micucci did an excellent job in their various episodes. This series captured the feel of classic shows like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents but added in Del Toro's signature flare for the dramatic and odd spine-tingling terror he is known for. These creators channeled him and his ideas of what is scary and creepy. The audience watching should be afraid while viewing these episodes. It is one of the best things I've seen this Halloween season.
Guillermo Del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities streams on Netflix beginning October 25, with new episodes airing daily through October 28.