Diving into Guillermo del Toro’s luscious Cabinet of Curiosities is an absolute delight, with the gothic filmmaker treating Netflix audiences by curating a collection of short horror films that each ooze with class and idiosyncratic style. The first night of terrors came stories from directors Guillermo Navarro and Vincenzo Natali, kicking the series off to a rousing start, whilst the second night has got an entirely new theme to terrify its audience.
‘Loners’ is the theme for night two of Cabinet of Curiosities, featuring stories from an entirely different group of horror filmmakers. Though, despite the theme being entirely applicable to a modern life that teems with social media alienation, anxiety and dissociation with the bizarre events of contemporary politics, neither filmmaker could properly grasp such feelings, making competent short films nonetheless.
2020s The Empty Man represented exactly the kind of middling horror that the genre has become accustomed to in recent years, being made by an evidently passionate director in David Pryor, who couldn’t seem to look beyond the cliche of the core concept. Still, the film wasn’t a disaster, and his inclusion in del Toro’s roster for Cabinet of Curiosities was a welcome one.
Helming The Autopsy, written by David S. Goyer, Pryor forces the viewer through several emotions, crafting something enigmatic and terrifying at first, only to eventually fall back on convention. Featuring F. Murray Abraham, the tale follows a medical examiner who is investigating the death of a group of miners who died after a mysterious explosion, with each one going under the knife to find a cause of death.
Occasionally gripping, the horror short is more of a supernatural crime story at first, following a police investigation that holds your interest like a grizzly episode of True Detective or The Twilight Zone. As the film nears its end, however, Pryor and Goyer get a little twisted as to the rules and mythos of its antagonist, jumping through hoops to make sure it all makes sense by the end.
It stands on par with the second screening of ‘Night Two’ and the fourth short film of del Toro’s anthology, Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Outside.
As one of the most distinctive names on the roster of the series, Amirpour’s movie does not disappoint, even if it leaves a little to be desired, containing many of the hallmarks of her style visible in 2014s celebrated A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Taking place in a sensationalised version of modern-day America, the experimental tragedy follows a self-conscious bank teller (Kate Micucci) who starts to use an anti-ageing cream that has devastating results (or does it?).
Highly watchable, this psychological character-focused horror is brought to life by Micucci, whose authentic performance makes the film all the more tormenting. Losing her mind and identity to the mantra of the anti-ageing cream, Amirpour’s film is a tense film lodged in a pertinent moral quandary that’s made all the better by Dan Stevens as a charismatic TV beauty star.
With innovative concepts and distinctive styles, Cabinet of Curiosities continues to impress.