*Snap* Review of Guillermo del Toro’s CABINET OF CURIOSITIES by Anthony

Bit of a mixed bag this one. Eight individually directed tales of modern horror collated by one of the masters of the genre. Some of them hit the mark, others not so much. There’s a couple of really dodgy monsters which lean toward parody rather than horror.

The first tale, “Lot 36”, has a solid premise; a mysterious old man making pilgrimages to a dark storage facility. After his death, the nasty, cynical purchaser of the facility learns of his back story, tinged in black magic. From there it goes off the rails a bit. Somehow there’s a secret passage running off the back of the storage unit to a black altar, but fortunately nobody ever noticed this before. Then the restrained demon just looks too ridiculous to be taken seriously. There’s also large gaps in the plot. Like the Satanist who takes along a sacred icon which he says will protect them from the demon, and immediately gets taken out by the demon, and they never explain why the old man has to hop on one leg up to and back out of the unit. Not at all terrifying.

“Graveyard Rats” is a solid horror story for anyone with claustrophobia.

“The Autopsy” is a good alien parasite invasion tale with a nasty twist – for the alien.

“The Outsider” is a clever take on the concept of beauty and social acceptance, with a great lead performance.

“Pickman’s Model” is a solid Lovecraftian horror based in the world of art.

“Dreams in the Witch House” is a twisted black magic tale that got a bit too silly for me.

“The Viewing” concerns an otherworldly meteor that again morphs into a rather silly monster that detracts from the story.

It is the final episode in the series which really hits the mark. It’s the one written by Del Toro himself and directed by Aussie writer-director Jennifer Kent. A ghostly tale of loss, grief and hope. Nancy and Edgar Bradley, a middle-aged couple struggling to recover from the loss of their only infant child, take up residence in an old abandoned house on a remote island, to pursue their profession of ornithology. Edgar (played by a guy from The Walking Dead!) tries desperately to rekindle the spark with Nancy, who has sunk into a deep depression. The old house is filled with its own tragic memories of loss and grief, and the susceptible wife is slowly haunted by visitations of the ghosts of a mother and the son she murdered. Oblivious to the hauntings, Edgar becomes increasingly estranged from his wife, even though he loves her dearly. Resolution occurs when Nancy finally confronts the ghost of the murdered boy, and helps to usher his spirit into the next world. The ghost of the mother unwillingly goes with him. Nancy then makes amends with her grateful husband, feeling she has resolved her grief. This reminds me a lot of del Toro’s earlier film, “The Orphanage,” which was also about loss and grief. Though thankfully, this one had a happy – rather than a tragic – ending.

It’s a beautiful little vignette, lovingly told, with the use of the murmurations of birds as a metaphor for harmony, family, and enduring love overcoming tragedy.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is an eight-part Netflix original series.

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