‘Cabinet of Curiosities: First Night’
Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro waltzes arm-in-arm with Netflix into the twilight of 2022, reaching the end of the year to critical and commercial fanfare. Force London Film Festival audiences to tears with his adaptation of Pinochio, two months before its Dec. 9 online premiere, del Toro has now hinted at a carnival of terror in its anthology series. Cabinet of Curiosities.
As the track master of terror, much like the weird storyteller of the niche, the CITV show Grizzly Tales for Horrible Children or Dr. Hill, the video game storyteller Until dawn, del Toro appears at the start of each episode as a mischievous, all-knowing grim reaper. Like a bewildered child, the director thrives in this environment, clearly cherishing the series he created alongside eight of modern cinema’s finest horror filmmakers.
The first night of Netflix’s weeklong Halloween celebration sees two stories that wrap around the ‘Scavengers’ theme, with the double bill kicking off with Guillermo Navarro Batch 36. Directed by longtime del Toro collaborator, who worked with the filmmaker as cinematographer through 1993 Chronos and 2006 Pan’s Labyrinth, the episode is written by one of the many writers of dead woodRegina Corrado.
Like the dark side of reality TV Storage Wars, the novella follows a former cult soldier, played by Coen Brothers regular Tim Blake Nelson, who uncovers 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 soldiers discover will force him into a life-threatening moral dilemma.
As the first of del Toro’s Eight Curiosities, the show is a smart and simple introduction to madness, with Nelson taking the simple story in a more intriguing direction. That said, Corrado’s script is tight and ultimately fulfilling, cramming a decent amount of content into an hour of drama without creating anything instantly forgettable or overly greedy for bloated concepts.
Speaking of which, the second curiosity of the first night of terrors is that of Vincenzo Natali graveyard rats, a short story grizzly 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 into a grave robber to search for the jewelry of the dead, no matter the high cost.
Coming from the director behind cube and Splicethe film is a predictably violent affair, featuring a neat monster design in the form of several massive rats whose stench permeates television much like the aforementioned feature films, graveyard rats is all concept. Striving to piece together two separate narratives, despite the fact that they don’t match, Natali’s film is a fun ride but ultimately crumbles under the weight of its own lofty ambitions.
Charming, despite his shortcomings, Cabinet of curiosities by Guillermo del Toro it’s like sitting around a warm campfire to hear a handful of ghostly tales with a master of horror at the helm. Although they don’t tap into anything deeper, each episode is like the door behind a Halloween advent calendar, full of surprise, sweetness, and passion for traditional terror.