31 Days of Hallowe’en 2022, Day 31: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, Episodes 1-3 [2022]

And so another year’s horror-thon comes to a close. Since covid I’ve stayed in for Hallowe’en, a far cry from my annual childhood parties or the multi-month-long carnival that is autumnal life in Salem. So what better way to ring out my 9th 31 Days of Hallowe’en with the presentation of one of our modern masters of horror?

Also: Happy Hallowe’en!

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is an anthology series presented by del Toro – literally, with openings in the style of Hitchcock – with each of its eight episodes helmed by different directors. Tonight I sat down and watched the first three, and it was a very mixed bag for me, so I’d rather score them individually for that reason.

Episode 1: Lot 36

The first episode, directed by Guillermo Navarro, stars Tim Blake Nelson as a racist piece of shit who also happens to be a war veteran, but whose days currently revolve around purchasing storage units to see what he can salvage while not getting the shit kicked out of him by loan sharks. One day he comes across a lot owned by a literal Nazi and stumbles upon some occult artefacts but, naturally, he doesn’t believe in any of this and proceeds to blunder his way through the rest of this predictable episode, which is impossibly slow-moving and features too hateful of a protagonist to spend this much time with. It seems to hark back to a Tales From The Crypt style in which there’s no scares, spooky atmosphere, tension or dread until the episode’s final moments but by then, I just didn’t give a shit.

Score: 🎃🎃

Episode 2: Graveyard Rats

Directed by Vincenzo Natali, this one genuinely scared me as it built up suffocating levels of dread while still maintaining its own distinctly camp, grim, grimy style. It’s largely a one-man show for David Hewlett, who plays grave robber Masson, and he absolutely nails every beat of pathos, terror and abject bastardism while still making you root for him. Once it starts, it never stops being scary, and the creature design is just fantastic. Bonus points for being set in Salem (albeit for no apparent reason).

Score: 🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃

Episode 3: The Autopsy

Directed by David Prior, this episode stars F Murray Abraham as a coroner who carries out the titular autopsy on a group of miners after a mysterious explosion. Hailed in some articles as the scariest of the bunch, it didn’t quite sit that way with me. I felt that the ending was too telegraphed and it took some time getting started, and in a way I didn’t quite expect (pace-breaking backstory upon pace-breaking backstory). I also found the antagonist too cheesy in a modern way when set against Abraham’s (characteristically brilliant) measured performance and the episode’s clearly vintage setting. Still, I thought it had a richly eerie atmosphere, some grisly visuals and a couple of good scares.

Score: 🎃🎃🎃

That’s it for this year. We’ll do this again in October 2023!

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