Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities Review
Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities will premiere with two episodes on Oct. 25, followed by two new episodes per day through Oct. 28.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is marketed as a departure from traditional horror. Presented as a collection of stories from talented, hand-picked directors, each tale is poised to thrill viewers in a unique manner. This desired outcome proves elusive, though, as the Cabinet of Curiosities struggles to deliver a cohesively nightmarish experience.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is a horror anthology show in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Del Toro himself offers introductions for all eight episodes, stepping out of the shadows to provide hints of what’s to come, with the actual Cabinet of Curiosities also present. A few turns of a crank reveals a secret compartment housing an item tied to the current episode and a small miniature representing its director. Leaning into the pageantry of it all, it’s apparent that del Toro is enjoying himself as the host. He believes in the merits of each story. That belief is infectious; the ornate props and cryptic words help in building anticipation.
This setup is more than just a nod to anthologies of old. Acting as a means of planting certain expectations, it allows each episode to more easily circumvent projected outcomes. The Outside, the episode directed by A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour, is a prime example. It welcomes various philosophies about the state of its characters in relation to an electronic device. Most will recognize that something is amiss thanks to the disturbed messaging that permeates much of the dialogue. But the actual horror is subtle, until it isn’t, at which point any preconceived notions are shattered.
Nearly all of the episodes are presented this way. Some are scarier than others, especially those with more classical depictions of a given monster. But the overall emphasis seems to be placed on conveying intriguing concepts in new, unsettling ways, essentially creating something that will linger in one’s mind long after the credits have rolled.
Having an hour runtime helps in this regard. Characters are given room to breathe before being enveloped in darkness, making it easier for us to become invested in their plights. Kate Micucci’s awkward depiction of The Outside’s Stacey is memorable not only because of her solid acting, but also because she’s given the time to lean into her character; who she is at the start vastly differs from the person she becomes towards the end. Essie Davis and Andrew Lincoln both do an amazing job of portraying grieving parents in The Murmuring while Rupert Grint’s heartfelt performance in Dreams in the Witch House is certainly notable, if only a little ironic given his past roles.
All of the episodes share the benefits of appropriately long runtimes, solid acting, and what one would assume was a decent budget considering that most of the ghosts, witches, and various creepy crawlies look great. The directors don’t skimp on the violence either. Evocative, yet believable imagery is the norm. However, not every episode hits the highest of bars. Graveyard Rats, the episode directed by Vincenzo Natali, proves to be rather mundane. Most of its runtime is spent on lengthy exposition before culminating in an anticlimactic and predictable end.
As a whole, the anthology does enough to warrant a couple of late-night viewings.“
The same goes for Lot 36. While the dialogue between characters is much better, it also ends in a forgettable manner. The biggest offender, though, would be The Viewing. Relying solely on an “elevated” concept and well written yet exhaustive dialogue, it betrays the rest of the series by being outright boring. Its chaotic end doesn’t nearly justify the time spent building towards it.
There’s also the notion of being this genre-defying collection – a group of stories that’ll somehow reshape how fans view horror. But a few of the episodes do the exact opposite by holding onto old tropes. As entertaining as Dreams in the Witch House is, it unfortunately reduces its Black characters to sidekicks and/or sacrificial lambs. That’s not to say how other people of color were depicted or seldomly seen in the first place.
Thankfully, most of the eight episodes are entertaining. Body horror, a foreboding atmosphere, intriguing concepts expressed in terrifying ways – there’s a lot for horror fans to enjoy. The uneven nature of del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities prevents the series from being the amazing trip into the macabre it’s supposed to be. That said, as a whole, the anthology does enough to warrant a couple of late-night viewings.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Kenneth Seward Jr.