This piece contains extremely some spoilers for Cabinet of Curiosities, so if you haven’t watched it yet then check out our spoiler-free review!
Guillermo del Toro has long been both a brilliant master and diligent student of horror. His newest creation, Netflix’s anthology horror series Cabinet of Curiosities equally reflects those sides of the Oscar-winning director. While the eight horror-filled episodes are each delightfully dark in their own way and once again show del Toro’s great skill for curation and taste in genre storytelling, it’s the narrative role that the director plays that we’re here to celebrate today.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: Images and Episode Details for Netflix Anthology Series
Each episode begins as del Toro explores the titular cabinet. He introduces us to it before the very first entry, as it grows almost organically from the ground. It’s here that he lays the groundwork for the enchanting, eerie treats that each story will deliver. Behind each door is a carving, a strange letter, or a keepsake that will hint at where our viewing experience is headed. It’s an ornate and at least partially practical creation that harks back to del Toro’s older work like Cronos. There’s something tangible and terrifying here, a belief that you too could touch the cabinet and that perhaps if you did you might truly find something horrifying inside. The cabinet is an effective prop and one that connects del Toro and his introductions to those who influenced him.
Throughout his life, del Toro has spoken of his love for Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, when he was in his early 20s he authored an entire book in which he analyzed each of the director’s films. It makes sense then that Cabinet of Curiosities’ biggest inspiration comes from the classic television anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Here del Toro gets to pay tribute to his hero not only with storytelling of dynamism and suspense, but as our chilling guide through the horrors to come. That 1955 series which originally aired on CBS and NBC featured Hitchcock introducing each of the tall tales in theatrical fashion. del Toro channels that here, bringing a cold gravitas and disconnected respect for the damned souls we’re about to meet. Just like Hitchcock before him, he uses props to draw us in, artifacts to make the fables feel more real.
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It’s not just Hitchcock, though, as many viewers likely thought of Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone when they saw del Toro’s delightful interludes. And Serling was almost certainly an influence, although it’s more likely it was his other—criminally underrated—horror focused anthology series Night Gallery that really shaped del Toro’s role as narrator. Like anyone who watched the haunting show as a child, the director was deeply affected by it. “I would go into complete paroxysms of terror,” he said in a moment old interview. “The only time I literally, literally peed my pants in fear. I did! I’m not talking figuratively! I released the bladder! It was a Night Gallery episode called ‘The Doll’ that was based on the Algernon Blackwood short story. “
Cabinet of Curiosities takes its form from Night Gallery and The Twilight Zone before it. Not only does the series adapt stories by classic authors, but it also features tales from the mind of del Toro, just as Serling would author entries in those iconic shows. As del Toro has his cabinet, Serling had his surreal paintings which hinted at what was to come in his experimental and boundary pushing tales. No wonder del Toro clearly relishes his role, he’s following in the footsteps of two of his heroes, trailblazers in genre storytelling. His cool and calm delivery reflects the seriousness of Serling with a little of the deadpan of Hitchcock. While the latter liked to poke a little fun of himself, del Toro and Serling share a sincerity, almost in awe of the tales they’re presenting to us. And in Cabinet of Curiosities, del Toro also brings something of his own. He’s a prophetic voice, a warning, making sure that we know that pursuing these curiosities comes at a cost.
After watching the first season of Cabinet of Curiosities, it feels like del Toro has found a new niche for himself. It’s a role that both expands on and utilizes his love of horror and filmmaking. It feels like a natural next step, another string to the award-winning director’s bow. He’s known for his unbelievable collection of horror ephemera and movie making memorabilia, and as he introduces us to the wonders inside the Cabinet of Curiosities, it feels like he’s lifting that veil and giving us a glimpse of the nightmares that inspire him to scare us.
Rosie Knight is a contributing freelancer for IGN covering everything from anime to comic books to kaiju to kids movies to horror flicks. She has over half a decade of experience in entertainment journalism with bylines at Nerdist, Den of Geek, Polygon, and more. Rosie is a published comics author who has written titles including Godzilla Rivals Vs. Battra swear The Haunted High-Tops. She co-hosts the weekly Crooked Media pop-culture podcast X-Ray Vision.
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