Review: ‘Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities’

Hunter Vasey, Staff

“In centuries past, when the world was full of mystery and traveling was reserved for the very few, a new form of collection was born.” This is how “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities” began. This is also the premise for the new horror anthology series. In each episode, Guillermo del Toro gives a Rod Sterling/Twilight-esque monologue about an object he pulls from the cabinet, as referenced in the title. Even though this is just a small part of the show, it sets the tone for the entire series and became one of my favorite parts. 

The series is eight episodes, each one directed by a different person spanning many different time periods, characters, and horrors. The diversity of stories is one of the things that makes this series so great. Each episode felt like it could’ve been its own movie. The stylistic choices taken by each director meant that you were getting a unique experience every time. The only thing that did feel connected was Guillermo del Toro’s creature designs. They’ve become iconic with movies like “Pan’s Labrinth,” “Shape of Water,” and “Hellboy,” and this show is no different. Nothing ruins a horror experience more than when you finally get a look at the villain, and they look like a Halloween costume from the dollar store. This is not an issue in “Cabinet of Curiosities,” from demons to witches, to aliens, they are terrifying and unlike anything I’ve seen on screen in a long time. 

The other thing that makes this series stand out is the range of morals and meanings the different stories have. Some take aim at timely social issues like xenophobia and racism. Others deal with more personal horrors like body dysmorphia. And others have a more classic message and are adapted from the stories of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.  

Speaking of Lovecraft, the episode based on his story does seem like a bit of a risk. Lovecraft is famously known to be one of the most racist people in history. He even named his cat a racial slur. However, in their retelling of his story, “Dreams in the Witch House,” many of the main characters have been cast by people of color. I’m not sure if this was an effort to “take back the narrative” or show that they don’t stand with the original author’s views, but either way, I think his works are best left in the past. 

My favorite episode from the show had to be episode seven, “The Viewing.” It follows a group of strangers that receive an invitation from a mysterious billionaire to attend a “viewing” at his art deco mansion. This episode has many more comedic moments than horror, starring some hilarious actors like Eric Andre, Charlyne Yi, and Michael Therriault. Without one lead, it can be hard to make a story relatable, but the characters have such a great dynamic that it’s not really a problem. It consists of a music producer, an astrophysicist, a best-selling author, and a (potentially phony) psychic medium. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, and that seems to be the point. They all contrast and complement each other so well. It’s remarkable.  

The other amazing thing about this episode is the visuals. The entire episode feels like how I imagine an acid trip would look. A large portion takes place in one room, a seventies-style lounge with a conversation pit and a formation of pipes protruding from the ceiling. Although it does take a bit to actually reach the horror, once it gets there, it doesn’t slow down. Even the monster itself is aesthetically pleasing, resulting in one of the prettiest pieces of horror media I’ve ever seen. 

“Cabinet of Curiosities” is another amazing horror story from an icon in the genre. Every story had me sucked in and entertained. I think that Netflix would be stupid not to pick this up as a recurring series, and I hope to see it get many more seasons. Even though Halloween is over, I highly recommend this show to anyone with a slight interest in horror.