Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities

An anthology of eight horror stories, from the classic to the surreal.

cabinet ghost

Title: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (Netflix – 2022)
Creator: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, David Hewlett, Kate Micucci, F. Murray Abraham, Crispin Glover, Ben Barnes, Rupert Grint, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Essie Davies, Andrew Lincoln, Peter Weller, Eric André, Sofia Boutella, Charlyne Yi, Steve Agee, Michael Therriault

A cabinet of curiosities was a device, or more often, a whole room, dedicated to strange collections or rare antiquities and the downright weird – items with their own stories to tell. Originating in the Reinassance, these cabinets were often a sign of status in certain parts of upper-class society. And while most items in these collections have since been transferred to museums, some still exist in the private ownership of eccentric collectors.

I’m sure Guillermo del Toro has several!

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is a new Netflix horror anthology series, just in time for Halloween. The idea of the series comes from Guillermo del Toro’s own book by the same name, where we get a glimpse into some of the ideas, concepts and sketches of the Mexican master filmmaker. Here too, is a collection of concepts, each drawn from various authors, including del Toro himself, but also from horror master and New England lunatic HP Lovecraft.

The eight episodes, which are all introduced by Guillermo del Toro himself in true Hitchcock style, are all about an hour or so in length and vary wildly in both theme and tone. There are several solid hits and some misses, as several different filmmakers have given horror stories, both old and new, their own spin adaptations. And because of this, below, I have given each episode its own score in addition to the overall score of the anthology.

Ben Barnes in “Pickman’s Model”. Based on the short story by HP Lovecraft.

Some of the hits include Dreams in the Witch House, which is based on the short story by HP Lovecraft. Starring Rupert Grint and Ismael Cruz Córdova, it is a real treat for fans of the father of cosmic horror, although Dreams in the Witch House is more a ghost story about death and loss than anything else.

The Murmuring, which is based on a story by Guillermo del Toro himself, is another hit. Starring Andrew Lincoln and Essie Davies as grief-stricken ornithologists on a field trip, it is perhaps the best of the eight episodes. It is a case of “less is more” – a subtle yet creepy story about a haunted house and another proof that you don’t need blood, guts and slimy monsters for something to be scary.

Speaking of slimy monsters, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities has them in spades. The Viewing, starring, among others, Peter Weller, Steve Agee and Eric André, is a psychedelic homage to the science fiction horror genre of the late 70s. Although far from the best in the collection, it was interesting to see the VHS quality filter, colors and effects to create this particular style.

The graverobber Masson (played by David Hewlett) meets the local cemetery wildlife.

But Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities often falls short when it comes to silliness and attempts at humor and caricature. The Outside, starring Kate Micucci, is perhaps the weakest of the eight episodes in its examination of late-night tv commercials and the need to fit in. Seeing Kate Micucci’s character obsessively talking to the man in the skin cream commercial and bathing in white slime didn’t work for me. The same goes for Graveyard Rats, starring David Hewlett as down on his luck graverobber. It could have been an interesting and exciting story if it hadn’t been for Hewlett constantly reminding me of George Costanza from Seinfeld.

All in all, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is an exciting, engaging and often actually scary collection of horror stories. Opening the cabinet, Guillermo del Toro has allowed filmmakers and writers to tell stories that would, in many cases, otherwise not be made. It feels authentic and brave, and it left me wanting more. Several of the stories, like Lot 36, gave me the feeling that there is more to be told, more background to these characters and the items they come into possession of. Perhaps, if Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is successful and gives Netflix viewers the scares and chills this Halloween season, we’ll see more in the future.

I certainly hope so.

cabinet ghost
Individual Episode Scores:
Lot 36
Graveyard Rats
The Autopsy
The Outside
Pickman's Model
Dreams in the Witch House
The Viewing
The Murmuring
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