Guillermo del Toro is enjoying quite the year in 2022, with the gothic creative having sculpted a stop-motion masterpiece in Pinocchio shortly before collaborating with Netflix again for the horror anthology series Cabinet of Curiosities.
Harking back to the finest anthology series of the genre, including The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside and The Outer Limits, the show is a funhouse of terror that expertly weaves from horrific tales to ones that teem with gothic romance. Hiring such influential filmmakers as Jennifer Kent, Ana Lily Amirpour, Panos Cosmatos, Guillermo Navarro and David Prior, del Toro set himself up for victory.
As a ringmaster of the terror, much like the eerie storyteller of the niche CITV show Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids or Dr. Hill, the raconteur of the video game Until Dawn, del Toro shows up at the beginning of each episode like a playful, omniscient grim reaper. Like a giddy child, the director thrives in this environment, clearly cherishing the series he created alongside eight of the finest horror filmmakers of modern cinema.
Though, naturally, some stories are better than others, which is why we’re here to provide you with a handy guide as to the best and worst episodes of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.
Ranking every episode of Cabinet of Curiosities
8. Pickman’s Model (Keith Thomas)
Pickman’s Model, directed by Keith Thomas, the same mind behind the Stephen King adaptation Firestarter starring Ryan Kiera Armstrong and Zac Efron, is the first film of the double feature, telling a somewhat generic tale of a young student who becomes haunted by the macabre paintings of a mysterious artist. Reminiscent of countless other horror films and TV shows, the instalment is the worst of the series.
This sounds like more of a damning indictment than it actually is, with each of the series’ instalments so far being of good quality, but Thomas’ film fails to hit the mark.
7. The Autopsy (David Prior)
Helming The Autopsy, written by David S. Goyer, David Pryor forces the viewer through several emotions, crafting something enigmatic and terrifying initially, only to eventually fall back on convention. Featuring F. Murray Abraham, the tale follows a medical examiner 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.
6. Dreams in the Witch House (Catherine Hardwicke)
With a rare appearance from the Harry Potter star Rupert Grint, many viewers will flock to this episode from the director of Twilight just to catch a glimpse of the lesser-spotted actor who took a considerable hiatus from the allure of the silver screen following the completion of the fantasy franchise.
Following Grint’s character as he embarks on a quest to find the spirit of his late sister, Hardwicke’s tale, based on the short story of the same name by H.P. Lovecraft and adapted by Black Mirror screenwriter Mika Watkins is a haunting and thoroughly enjoyable tale.
5. Lot 36 (Guillermo Navarro)
Like the dark side of the reality TV show Storage Wars, this short story follows a bigoted former soldier, played by the Coen brother’s regular Tim Blake Nelson, who discovers a dark secret in a unit he recently won at auction. Finding a seance table with several neat compartments that house a stack of ancient texts, the man’s discovery will force him into a moral quandary which puts his life on the line.
As the first of del Toro’s eight curiosities, the show is a smart and simple introduction to the madness, with Nelson taking the straightforward story in a more intriguing direction. That said, Regina Corrado’s screenplay is tight and ultimately fulfilling.
4. Graveyard Rats (Vincenzo Natali)
The second curiosity is Vincenzo Natali’s Graveyard Rats, a grizzly short story based on the novel of the same name by author Henry Kuttner. Set in the muddy streets of rural Salem, Massachusetts, the film sees a cemetery caretaker (David Hewlett) turn grave robber to seek the jewellery of the dead no matter the harsh costs, coming to blows with a hoard of rats in the process.
Coming from the director behind Cube and Splice, the film’s a predictably violent affair, featuring some neat monster design in the form of several hulking rats whose stink permeates through the TV.
3. The Outside (Ana Lily Amirpour)
As one of the most distinctive names on the series roster, Ana Lily 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 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 watch.
2. The Murmuring (Jennifer Kent)
The Australian writer and director Jennifer Kent takes the reins on the eighth and final movie of the series, finishing things off with a charming flourish with The Murmuring. Based on a short story by Guillermo del Toro, the story follows two ornithologists, played by Essie Davis and Andrew Lincoln, who are struggling to overcome the death of their daughter when they move into an old house with a history of its own.
A traditional ghost story, The Murmuring deals with unsettled spirits and ancient trauma, providing a neat parallel for the experiences of the two lead characters. Whilst it doesn’t offer much new in the realms of horror, Kent’s creative vision takes the genre to an idyllic new location, capturing the marshy surroundings of the ancient house where birds flock overhead with stunning beauty.
1. The Viewing (Panos Cosmatos)
From the director of the Nicolas Cage movie Mandy, Panos Cosmatos, The Viewing is the most distinctive body of work in the collection of the Cabinet of Curiosities, utilising the filmmaker’s vibrant, otherworldly style. Toying with colour, just like in his aforementioned 2018 movie, The Viewing, based on a short story by Michael Shea, is a phantasmagorical trip into Lovecraftian terror.
With a curious cast, which includes the likes of Eric André, Peter Weller, Sofia Boutella and Charlyne Yi, the film follows a wealthy maverick recluse (Weller) who invites four famous professionals in their field to experience a night of ethereal revelation. Feeding them personalised drinks, weed and copious amounts of cocaine with a sprinkling of a mysterious blue powder, we spend much of the film chilling in the group’s company before things get crazy.