Film Editor Jess Parker reviews Guillermo del Toro’s horror anthology series, noting disappointment at the show not living up to audience expectations
Released to Netflix in October 2022, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is a horror anthology series, created by del Toro, that highlights the work of eight different creatives through eight individual tales. The nostalgic feel of this format takes audiences back to the surge of anthology horror in the 1980s, and capitalises on the anthology series renaissance of recent years; this is seen in the successes of series such as Inside No. 9, Black Mirror, and American Horror Story.
Many fans have been disappointed that the series is fairly dissimilar from del Toro’s previous work. However, the beloved director did play a large part in what audiences saw. Del Toro served as a writer for multiple episodes and personally selected most of the writers and directors for the series.
The series has a strong start with Guillermo Navarro’s ‘Lot 36’. For lack of a better comparison, it is like an occult episode of Storage Hunters. Ex-Veteran Nick (Tim Blake Nelson) purchases the storage locker of a deceased man, but discovers a horrific secret upon delving into the strange man’s belongings. The cast’s performances are consistently strong, something which is not apparent in every episode of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.
Another standout episode is David Prior’s ‘The Autopsy’. When investigating a mysterious body that was found in the woods, medical examiner Dr Carl Winters (F. Murray Abraham) uncovers a chilling secret in connection to a string of recent disappearances. ‘The Autopsy’ puts a Sci-Fi spin on Cabinet of Curiosities’ brand of horror. Its plot is fairly complex at times, layering riddles throughout the narrative until viewers can eventually piece them together alongside Winters.
Unfortunately, the excitement that ramped up in the series’ first and third episodes dwindles throughout Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities. ‘Graveyard Rats’ and ‘Dreams in the Witch House’, two weirdly rodent-centric episodes, feel incredibly lacklustre when you consider del Toro’s usual calibre of monstrosities. In all honesty, these episodes are quite boring. Many of the series’ plotlines are slow burns that only reach their potential at the very end, leaving viewers wondering why they could not just get to the point a little earlier.
Catherine Hardwicke’s ‘Dreams in the Witch House’ possibly features Cabinet of Curiosities’ least convincing performance in Walter Gilman (Rupert Grint). Grint’s attempt at a Boston accent is jarring throughout the episode, and completely takes you out of any immersion that the shaky narrative could have provided in the first place. When working on source material by such a revered writer as H. P. Lovecraft, you would assume that del Toro’s fantastical horror niche would lend itself perfectly. This unfortunately, is not the case in this sadly underwhelming episode.
It is a shame that Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities fails to live up to expectations. Many of the anthology’s stories feel incredibly rushed, and seem to wait as long as possible to actually entice viewers. Of course, the series does have some enjoyable moments. These are, however, overshadowed by the dreary waits that audiences must endure to find any semblance of excitement and intrigue in Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.
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