Guillermo Del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, November 28th, 2022  

Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Netflix, October 25, 2022

Oct 31, 2022 Photography by Netflix
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Guillermo Del Toro’s new eight-part series, Cabinet of Curiosities, takes its cues from shows of mature vintage. Rod Serling’s The Night Gallery and Alfred Hitchcock Presents come to mind as Del Toro himself introduces us to the tales behind the strange objects in his titular ornate cabinet. Like his predecessors, he cuts an avuncular figure: welcoming, and with just the right amount of foreboding.

Falling in line with those classics thematically as well as by way of presentation, Cabinet of Curiosity’s episodes are pronounced and purposeful morality tales in which sins are horribly, sometimes brutally, punished in delightful, if predictably ironic ways.

Opener “Lot 36” sees the always compelling Tim Blake Nelson as disenfranchised veteran Nick, scrabbling to make a living from musty storage units, auctioned to the highest bidder after abandonment or non-payment of rent. HIs unreliable ally, Demetrius Grosse’s Eddie lands him in an awkward situation with Emilia, played by Elpidia Carilla which draws out Nick’s ugly, embedded racism. Nick may have finally lucked out when he finds some valuable, if decidedly evil, relics in Lot 36 and thus the scales are set for comeuppance.

Visually it’s put together well enough by director Gullermo Navarro, Del Toro’s cinematographer on Pan’s Labyrinth, and is drawn from a short story by Del Toro himself. While its message fits the form, the delivery is ultimately clunky and a little trite, particularly when the CGI kicks in and things take a turn more for the fun than the frightening.

A grueling, borderline sickening thrill ride through the underside of a cemetery, in Episode 2, “Graveyard Rats,” really ups the ante. While bearing similarities to “Lot 36” in terms of its narrative structure: man needs money, attempts to get money by nefarious means, is forced to pay the price, David Hewlett’s Masson is a much more cartoonish and desperate character than Nick. In an attempt to clear gambling debts, he picks the bodies housed in the very cemetery he supervises clean of valuables on a nightly basis. Hewlett strides, coos, waffles and ultimately crawls through the episode with incredible gusto, confidently essaying a truly awful piece of work who we can’t wait to see eat his just desserts.

Director Vincenzo Natali brings the claustrophobic tension he became known for with 1997’s Cube to a head in a series of sequences that will have you squirming in disgust and squealing with twisted laughter. It’s a fine piece of nastiness, one that bodes well for the rest of the season.

There is a welcome resurgence for horror anthologies in recent years. Some, like Jordan Peele’s take on The Twilight Zone, stumbled after two seasons. Others, such as Shudder’s Creepshow series thrived and has spun off into a comic book series in line with the EC comics which inspired the original films.

There have been fresher, more challenging takes on the genre, too. The Duplass brothers’ compelling four-season run of the chilling, endlessly inventive Room 104 was a constant, surprising delight, while Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror served up bleak, brilliant social commentary for the best part of the last decade.

Cabinet of Curiosities falls somewhere in between. But, with contributions from horror luminaries such as Ana Lily Armipour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night), the visionary Panos Cosmatos (Mandy) and Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), and stars like Dan Stevens and F. Murray Abraham, there’s a good deal of hope that the series might transcend its conventional presentation and predictability to offer something a little more substantial–dare we hope subversive, for a scary season. New episodes drop each day through to Halloween. (www.netflix.com/cabinet_of_curiosities)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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