This Halloween, there are plenty of terrifyingly grotesque projects to watch across all streaming platforms. However, none are quite as unique as Guillermo del Toro‘s Cabinet of Curiosities. An anthological series of short films written and directed by a swath of award-winning horror creatives, the Netflix Original is an excellent practice in scaring the living daylights out of even the most devoted thrill-seekers. Specializing in the strange and unnerving, nearly every installment in the collection is worth a watch. Unfortunately, not every episode can be as good as the rest, and the uninitiated should have a guiding hand in selecting which to view should they only have time for one or two. As such, Murphy’s Multiverse has ranked every entry in the Cabinet of Curiosities based on spookiness and overall entertainment value. So, carry on, but beware of more than a few tentacle monsters…
1. The Autopsy
Without a doubt, the clear high point of the series. Directed by David Prior (The Empty Man) and written by David S. Goyer (Blade), The Autopsy immediately stands as a horror classic. The short is based on a 1987 story from author Michael Shea, in which alien lifeforms possess human bodies for their own nefarious purposes. When a coroner, played by the incomparable F. Murray Abraham, comes across a corpse carrying one of these aliens, it leads to a night of horrific revelations and bodily mutilations that no viewer will ever forget. The script is the most arresting that the Cabinet of Curiosities has to offer, pulling the audience in from the very beginning and refusing to let go. Even at its most freakish moments, it’s nearly impossible to look away, and Abraham‘s performance seals it as a must-watch for fans of the genre.
2. Pickman’s Model
Coming in at a close second is Pickman’s Model, a short film based on the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name. Directed by Keith Thomas (Firestarter) and written by Lee Patterson (Colony), this tragic tale concerns a pair of artists in the early 20th century, played by Ben Barnes and Crispin Glover, who encounter each other repeatedly over the course of a decade while the former slowly descends into madness over the latter’s increasingly disturbing work. The episode is a masterclass in suspense and paranoia, and the duo of Barnes and Glover are perfectly cast in their roles. Some major changes are also made to the original story’s plot and ending, which will keep devoted fans on their toes and leads to some disturbing imagery that will remain engrained in the brain for days after. viewing.
3. The Viewing
An original creation from the mind of notably unconventional director Panos Cosmatos (Mandy) and his writing partner Aaron Stewart-Ahn (also Mandy), this is one episode that differs significantly from the others. Featuring an all-star cast (Eric André, Steve Agee, Sofia Boutella, Michael Therriault, Charlyene Yi, and Peter Weller), The Viewing plays mostly as a My Dinner With André-style conversation piece. A group of the world’s brightest minds are brought to the home of a mysterious, wealthy benefactor, who refuses to explain why they’ve been gathered until the shocking end. Despite being a bit less spooky than its counterparts, the episode ranks third for its enchanting aesthetic and electrifying finale. All that talking leads to quite the payoff, and the acting is pretty good to boot.
4. The Murmuring
One of two episodes written by maestro Guillermo del Toro, this episode is essentially a classic haunted house story. Directed by Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), The Murmuring sees two ornithologists take up residence in an old, abandoned, isolated mansion while researching the murmurs of birds. Andrew Lincoln and Essie Davis put in admirable performances as a married couple recovering from personal devastation, and although the short is less creative than some of its fellow entries, it is one of the most genuinely horrifying. Several scenes are straight-up hard to watch, putting it solidly at number four on the list.
5. Lot 36
The other episode from del Toro, Lot 36 revels in leveraging harm at the United States’ worst demographic. Directed by Guillermo Navarro (Hannibal), this episode focuses on a racist, disgruntled veteran – played by Tim Blake Nelson – who purchases the storage locker of a recently-deceased occultist. What he finds inside is predictably monstrous, and his fate is set up beautifully as the story progresses. It’s a solid hour of horror, but nothing all that special or memorable, landing it firmly at the top of the bottom half of this list. However, it does get bonus points for taking place in Buffalo, New York. Go Bills!
6. The Outside
Clearly developed as one of the highlight shorts from the series, The Outside falls a little flatter than intended. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) and written by Haley Z. Boston (Brand New Cherry Flavor) based on a story by author Emily Carroll, the episode sees a meek woman and her unassuming husband, played by Kate Micucci and Martin Starr, have their lives turned upside down by the disgusting effects of a new skincare routine peddled by an omnipotent television salesman, played by Dan Stevens. While it carries an intriguing thesis, The Outside fails to be as entertaining as its premise suggests it could be. It’s also not all that scary, pushing it down to the lower half of the list.
7. Graveyard Rats
A Victorian period piece, based on an old short story by Henry Kuttner, Graveyard Rats is more shock than awe. Written and directed by Vincenzo Natali (Splice), the short features a scummy gravedigger, played by David Hewlitt, who robs the residents of his graveyard in the middle of the night, only to discover in terror that a colony of rats is doing the same. The episode has a fairly enthralling third act, with some pretty upsetting visuals, but is otherwise a bit of a snore. Not something that many viewers are likely to watch again.
8. Dreams in the Witch House
The last of Lovecraft‘s stories featured in the series, Dreams in the Witch House is a great idea with a pretty disappointing execution. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) and written by Mika Watkins (Origin), the episodes sees Rupert Grint as a broken young man searching desperately for the soul of his dead sister. His hunt leads him to a mystical attic in a cursed house, where he comes across a sinister witch and her furry familiar. The production work on this one is great, but some key changes from the original plotline make for a lesser version. It doesn’t hold interest but does have some cool moments. Unfortunately, not enough to lift it from the bottom of the list.