The first two episodes have been released for Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities and they offer a window into what the future of this horror anthology will bring to the table. The concept of horror anthologies is nothing new, may it be in TV form with The Twilight Zone, the V/H/S film franchise, or The ABCs of Death. There’s something special about exploring the genre from many different perspectives that explore the genre in many different ways. Luckily, Cabinet of Curiosities already teases that the series will offer exactly that.
We are given two distinct episodes with Guillermo Navarro‘s Lot 36 and Vincenzo Natali‘s Graveyard Rats. The only true connection point is that each episode opens with Guillermo del Toro offering a small tease of what’s to come in the episodes with a trinket hinting at what the individual episodes have to offer. It’s a great little homage to classic horror anthologys where the host sets the right mood and del Toro is definitely the person you want to tell you what fears are heading your way.
Navarro‘s Lot 36 explores the story of Tim Blake Nelson‘s Nick. A man owing money to the wrong people and desperate enough to ensure he can make a quick buck off of forgotten storage units. The story is mainly carried by Nelson‘s performance as he offers us a man that is constantly on edge and just taking it out on the rest of the world. He’s definitely not meant to be likable but with the knowledge of it being a horror story, who knows what demonic things may be heading his way. Luckily, the episode offers a slow but satisfying build-up.
The episode is best explained as a showcase of consequences. It uses an underlying mystery about a strange man performing strange rituals in front of his storage unit to make you question what may be included but doesn’t truly show all its cards. Making use of the base concept, a lot of what is hidden away in this storage unit hints at where the story is heading. The only drawback is that as great as the ending is, it goes by fast. The pay-off is definitely there in spades but it did feel like it could’ve used a bit more time to build tension.
With a core mystery being the building blocks of the slow burn, it was a shame it didn’t build upon that some more. Just like Nelson‘s character, the ending wanted to get it done with. Even if the pathos was satisfying, there still is that feeling that it ends just as it’s getting good. It’s a very grounded story that has a great escalation, it just hit a satisfying ending a bit too early. Even so, it’s a great first episode and you can definitely see this was a passion project. Even with little scares, it’s definitely a memorable way to kick off an anthology.
The second entry by Natali, Graveyard Rats, sees David Hewlett‘s Masson try his best to take care of his graveyard by stealing from the many patrons that remain buried there. The opening is actually a fun diversion as he stops two grave robbers only to turn out to be one himself. Just like Nick, we have another character down on his luck, who is desperately trying to get his hands on anything he can sell to get out of his debt. It’s a shame the general motivation for both episodes being baseline the same but the vibe is what makes this entry stand out.
The project still isn’t as scary, it does act as a more comedic take on the genre. It doesn’t fully go Army of Darkness, but you can feel like there’s some fun with the project. Hewlett is a blast as the character and the project offers some really beautiful shots that are that perfect little “extra” to make it stand out from the previous entry. We also get to explore the character going through more of a journey, as things just continue to escalate for him.
As the name implies, the core story is about rats, and without really spoiling anything, it does take a sudden left turn towards the end; a bit of a déjà-vu. It technically could’ve done without but it does add a bit more fun mythology to this one-off story. Who knows if perhaps they could revisit it similar to how Love, Death and Robots had a sequel episode to a previous season. Still, the main focus of the story is still prevalent, and plays around with some really great imagery and the fears that any of us.
It still doesn’t quite scare you as much as it could, but it makes for a great little story. I do wish that the second entry would’ve been more distinct from the previous episodes but it still is tonally and visually distinct to distract from those surface-level similarities. If this is the direction they are going with this series, it’ll definite must-watch for anyone who loves the genre and wants to see some fun directions with it.