Guillermo del Toro is a director and writer who likes to create weird or 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 is a little more straightforward. 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 The Cabinet of Curiosities.
The 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. Ana Lily Amirpour, Jennifer Kent, and Kathrine Hardwicke are some of the more known directors in the series. They all happen to be female directors. This series is similar in a way to The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, two shows that dealt with the out-of-the-ordinary. This show goes to the next level of that. It is a bloody gruesome show that goes beyond the boundaries of what can be seen on television. In this case, streaming. It is a very gory sick series but right up the alley of what del Toro likes.
The best episodes of the series are The Murmuring about a couple of bird watchers, Edgar and his wife (Andrew Lincoln, Essie Davis) who go to a secluded island to study birds but end up getting 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 by Guillermo Del Toro and has some nice suspenseful moments. Dreams in Which House has a lot of 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. Katherine Hardwick the director kept the story by Mika Watkins based on a short story by HP Lovecraft moving nicely. There weren’t a lot of slow moments. The acting by all including Rupert Grint (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. This 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 look of the episode but how it ended. It really started interesting and the setting was beautiful and very fascinating. The cast was very good as well but the ending wasn’t very good. Cosmatos and Aaron Stewart Ahn just dropped the ball on the ending of this episode. Another episode that had a bad ending was Graveyard of 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 was how it ended I didn’t like.
Episodes that were in the middle, not bad but not great were Lot 36, Guillermo Navar,o and Starring Tim Blake Nelson. 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 very weird 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. Pick an’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 Kieth Thomas based on another HP 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 who they’re own unique styles of telling stories. The cast in the episodes was very good as well. Actors such as Nelson, Abraham, and Kate Micucci all did a good 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.
Dan Skip Allen