It’s almost Halloween! In the spirit of the spooky season Guillermo del Toro has blessed us with eight terrifying new horror stories under the banner of his new series Cabinet of Curiosities. From gothic family drama to gruesome body horror, there’s something for every horror fan. With tales from the makers of movies like The Babadook, Twilight, and Mandy, this is a real who’s who of genre creators. Some of the stories are even based on tales by del Toro! So once you’ve watched every one of the delightfully dark entries into the awesome Netflix anthology then join as we breakdown the most terrifying moment from each episode!
“Lot 36” – The Dottie Monster
The opening episode of Cabinet of Curiosities introduces viewers to a desperate man, Nick, and his terrible debts. His quest to pay them off leads him down a dark path. It all begins when he purchases a storage unit filled with strange occult objects. Rather than fearing them, he covets their worth. It’s this choice and his own racist mean streak that ultimately lead him to a fate worse than death. The most shocking moment of the episode comes when Nick disrupts a spell that keeps a demon, Dottie, trapped inside the storage unit. Suddenly, a nightmare of tentacles awakens. The first monster of the season is also one of its most impressive. Slimy, prehensile, and straight out of Hell, this is a truly shocking and unforgettable creature brought to life brilliantly.
“Graveyard Rats” – A Fate Worse Than Death
Though there is another unbelievable monster in the second entry of Cabinet of Curiosities, the most horrifying moment comes after its appearance. David Hewlett stars as graverobber Masson in this claustrophobic tale of another debt-ridden man. Hearing a rumor of a wild treasure to steal out of the depths of the graveyard, Masson begins his final scrabbling descent. But after he has faced down a giant rat and found spoils beyond his wildest dream, he must face his—and many others’—worst fear. Rather than escaping the graveyard, he ends up trapped in a coffin, buried alive with no way out. The worst is yet to come, as rats swarm him. We end the episode with Masson dead and a rodent emerging out of his mouth.
“The Autopsy” – The Autopsy
It’s probably no surprise that an episode called “The Autopsy” excels in the horror of the titular procedure. But David Prior’s tale still manages to surprise as F. Murray Abraham leads a story about a pathologist exploring a terrible disaster. As he begins his autopsy, he learns something awful. It wasn’t an accident and the body he’s operating on isn’t dead. In fact, it’s host to an alien parasite. In one of the most brilliant practical sequences of the series, the alien puppeteers its own body to do an autopsy on itself. It’s a wonderfully grotesque moment that perfectly matches the noir storytelling that has led us to it. And F. Murray Abraham gets a brutal hero moment as he cuts out his own eyes to beat the alien. See, if it cannot see, it cannot survive.
“The Outside” – RIP Martin Starr
Ana Lily Amirpour leans into the awkward in this cringe-inducing horror about the pressure to be perceived as beautiful. Kate Micucci leads as Stacey. She wants nothing more than to be a part of the popular clique at her bank job. Her husband, played by Martin Starr, loves her as she is but that’s not enough for Stacey. When she makes a strange connection with a late night infomercial, she becomes obsessed with a lotion called Alo Glo. Though the cream makes her break out in a horrible rash, she believes it will transform her, and she’s not wrong. Sadly for her husband, he can’t see the possibilities, so she kills him and turns his body into a taxidermized version of himself. It’s the most gruesome moment, made worse by how heartbroken he clearly is at what his wife is doing and her absolute lack of remorse.
“Pickman’s Model” – The Feast
Arguably the most affecting episode this season is this haunting H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. Starring Ben Barnes as an artist named Thurber who discovers a dark and demonic truth in the art of the titular Pickman, the story is a gothic slow burn that never lets up. But its scariest sequence is actually spread throughout the episode as Thurber sees the feast for the demon. We first experience it in the bowels of his home, where we see human remains and rotting food laid out. The table is a nightmarish spread, and its attendants are the figures from Pickman’s paintings. But it’s only after Thurber kills Pickman and learns that his monstrous creations are based on reality that the most shocking moment occurs. As his now cursed wife prepares dinner, he realizes she’s preparing their own child as the main course. Horrific stuff.
“Dreams in the Witch House” – The Witch’s Kiss
Cabinet of Curiosities boasts stunning creature work and haunting storytelling. In Catherine Hardwick’s H.P. Lovecraft-inspired entry we get a dark fairytale about Walter, a man whose all-consuming desire is to bring his dead sister back to life. After being kicked out of the Spiritualist Society, he discovers an odd unheard of potion that allows him to visit the Realm of the Dead. That just so happens to be where his sister’s spirit is kept by a witch called Keziah Mason. She’s a feat of impressive SFX, and in one of the most spooky scenes, Keziah grasps Rupert Grint’s Walter in a powerful embrace. Kissing him and sucking his soul, she claims that he is hers, something that we will later find out is true in the most awful sense.
“The Viewing” – Perceiving the Obelisk
Panos Cosmatos brings his unique sensibilities to this delightfully trippy segment that follows a group of strangers brought together by an invitation. As the night goes on, their host (Peter Weller) entices them with substances, promises, and really great music. Eventually, though, they’re taken to see a magnificent and strange obelisk. It’s here that things get really strange. The Giger-esque rock is hiding something dark inside it. An otherworldly demonic presence emerges and begins to emit a powerful energy. It’s this that leads us to two wonderfully shocking moments. The first happens as one of the guests’ face melts Raiders of the Lost Ark style. Next we get a brilliant Scanners inspired head explosion. How much you enjoy this entry will likely depend on your taste for surreal slow burn. But you can’t deny those awesome explosive deaths.
“The Murmuring” – The Haunting
A tragic domestic chamber drama, “The Murmuring” feels more like a play than a Netflix series. Jennifer Kent brings her emotionally driven gothic storytelling that made The Babadook such a success to this tale of grieving couple Nancy and Edgar. Their loss drives them further into their work studying birds. Moving to a rural isolated old house to get closer to the creatures they’re focusing on begins to take its toll on Nancy. Although this doesn’t have the kind of gross out moments some of the others boast, it still has some heart-stopping shocks. All of them come from the haunting that Nancy begins to experience. One of the most instantly breath-taking moments is the first time that she comes across the ghost of a young drowned boy. It’s the kind of jump scare that could cheapen the story, but instead it just adds to the tension and fear.
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