Cabinet of Curiosities is a new horror anthology series from Guillermo Del Toro, now airing on Netflix. Featuring 8 stories from some well-known directors and personally curated by Del Toro himself, you’d be forgiven for expecting big things from this series. However, despite some promising aspects, the end results aren’t nearly as terrifying as it leads you to expect.
With each story and director introduced by Del Toro, there are 8 individual episodes each telling a unique horror tale. There’s Lot 36 directed by Guillermo Navarro (cinematographer for numerous Del Toro flicks including Pan’s Labyrinth), where veteran Nick (Tim Blake Nelson) buys abandoned storage containers to sell their contents and pay off his debts. After purchasing a lot owned by an old man, Nick soon discovers the lot is not what it seems.
Graveyard Rats from Vincenzo Natali (Cube) sees David Hewlett’s graverobber Masson battle some rather vicious and oversized rats to obtain his rewards. The Autopsy sees Dr Carl Winters (F. Murray Abraham) try and piece together a bizarre chain of events and bodies in a small town. The Outside follows awkward, outcast Stacey (Kate Micucci) as she tries a mysterious lotion known as Alo Go, promoted to her by Dan Stephen’s shady advertiser, in a bid to fit in.
Pickman’s Model from Keith Thomas (Firestarter) sees art student Will (Ben Barnes) meet an introverted fellow artist Richard (Crispin Glover) who produces very disturbing works of art. Dreams in the Witch House from Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) follows Rupert Grint’s Walter as he searches for his twin in a mysterious realm after she died when they were children. The Viewing sees wealthy recluse Lionel (Peter Weller) invite four strangers into his home alongside his doctor (Sofia Boutella) for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And final episode The Murmuring sees The Babadook director Jennifer Kent reunited with its star Essie Davis as ornithologist Nancy and her husband Edgar (Andrew Lincoln), who visit a remote island to study birds. Instead, they uncover terrors in the house they’re staying in.
On paper, Cabinet of Curiosities sounds like a home run – a horror anthology series curated by Guillermo Del Toro with some very recognisable faces and directors? Yes, please! I’m a big fan of anthology series in general and throwing Del Toro’s name into the mix had me clamouring to watch this. However it never quite lived up to my lofty expectations. There are some great ideas, but they just aren’t pulled off.
The main problem is that despite ranging between 35 and 60 minutes long, all of the episodes feel a lot longer and seem very drawn out. It wouldn’t be too bad if there was a decent amount of tension and scares in the build-up, but for the most part, there isn’t. The final act in virtually all episodes is actually quite good and they feature some pretty impressive, and gruesome, physical and CGI effects. They just feel like they’re over in a blink of an eye compared with the build-up.
I did feel incredibly happy to see Cube director Vincenzo Natali reunited with David Hewlett, and due to this I probably liked Graveyard Rats a lot more than the other episodes. Some episodes are definitely stronger than others; with Rats, The Autopsy and Pickman’s Model being my particular standouts. However, none truly shine as they all have their faults, mostly due to the slow pace, which is a shame as the actual storylines had so much potential had they been better executed and a lot scarier. For a horror series, it isn’t particularly horrifying.
Out of all of the episodes, The Murmuring was the least enjoyable, purely because the plot wasn’t particularly original and quite dull, despite the best efforts of Davis and Lincoln. This entire series has a rather fantastic cast and directors, but the material just doesn’t match up to them. Also, I do question Del Toro himself as the Curator introducing each episode. He’s a fantastic director but I feel that for a horror series, it really needs a curator that is a lot more imposing and terrifying, and unfortunately, Del Toro just doesn’t have these traits.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities has some great story ideas and features a wonderful cast and crew, but sadly the end result is far too slow-paced and not horrifying enough to be memorable.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!