Guillermo del Toro is the creator and onscreen host of Cabinet of Curiosities, a collection of horror stories very much in the mode of Creepshow—or a gorier, scarier strain of The Twilight Zone.
There are eight episodes in all—I have seen the first four as of this writing—and they range from pretty good to pretty great.
Tim Blake Nelson stars in the first episode, “Lot 36,” a demented riff on the practice of buying old storage containers at auction with no idea what is inside. Nelson plays a bigoted sort with money problems who discovers some evil books that could be worth a lot of money—so much money that he won’t let demons get in his way. The episode is OK, but it never really establishes its characters or a true reason for being. It looks good but lacks a sense of completion.
Much better is “The Autopsy,” starring F. Murray Abraham as a medical examiner who must look into the conditions surrounding a mining accident—where the miners perhaps didn’t die due to the usual reasons after being trapped in a collapse. This one unwinds in a way that is not for the squeamish, and it’s propelled by just how great Abraham can be when he’s on his game.
The best of the first is “The Outside” (directed by Ana Lily Amirpour), starring Kate Micucci (Garfunkel and Oates) as a misfit banker who loves taxidermy. She wants to fit in with popular folks at her workplace, but she’s a bit of a weirdo. After being given a lotion as a Christmas gift, she slathers it on—to find her skin has a bad reaction. As she becomes more obsessed with her looks and the lotion, her world unravels, much to the chagrin of her sweet husband (the great Martin Starr).
Overall, the quality is solid, with each episode having strong production values. Some of the scripting doesn’t quite live up to those production values or the performances, so this is a mixed review. I will say that when the show works, it is pretty damn effective. I was very uncomfortable at times—and I think that’s exactly what del Toro wanted.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is now streaming on Netflix.