Guillermo del Toro will be presenting this new anthology series in the style of the revived Twilight Zone series presented by Jordon Peel. Naturally, Guillermo is well-known for his horror movies that occasionally incorporate Gothic elements and feature unusual-looking monsters (Nightmare Alley, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy). In reality, The Shape of Water earned him the 2017 Academy Award for Best Director and Picture. As a result, there is understandable excitement for the debut of this series.
What we have here are 8 episodes, each of which was helmed by a different “guest” filmmaker who had previously worked on genre films. Indeed, Guillermo has managed to assemble an outstanding roster of participants, including the filmmakers of The Babadook (Jennifer Kent), Mandy (Panos Cosmatos), and The Empty Man (David Prior), among others (Jennifer Kent). The series feels like a tiny film festival since each episode, which lasts around an hour, plays out like a mini-independent film. Despite not having a hand in any of the episodes’ direction, Guillermo’s distinct imagination and characteristic style can be seen in every one of them thanks to the imaginative designs of the monsters and the general atmosphere and tone of each tale. This did not, however, stop many of the episodes from having a unique aesthetic that highlights the director’s artistic abilities.
Being the weakest in the series, the first two episodes give the series an admittedly rocky start. This is regrettable since some viewers might give up on the show too quickly after seeing the first two episodes. However, those who stick around are richly rewarded because the later episodes get better. My personal favorite episode of the series is easily Episode 3, The Autopsy, which was directed by David Prior. F Murray Abraham gives an outstanding performance as a medical examiner asked to perform autopsy on the victims of a mining explosion. Coming a close second is The Viewing, directed by Panos Cosmatos with Peter Weller giving one of best performances as an eccentric billionaire who invites four guests to his mansion for an unusual experience. This episode stands out as the most aesthetically spectacular because Panos employs a variety of strategies to imitate the style, sound, and atmosphere of the 1970s. Additionally, it has several gory effects reminiscent of Cronenberg in his prime.
In addition to the delights of watching a different director’s approach and vision each episode, we are also treated with some outstanding performances from both familiar as well as unfamiliar faces. I have already raved about F Murray Abraham and Peter Weller. Walking Dead fans will probably be thrilled to see Andrew Lincoln playing a very different kind of character, an ornithologist, in the last story, The Murmuring. Harry Potter alumni (Ron) Rupert Grint gives a tender and emotional performance as a man searching for ways to contact his dead twin sister in Dreams in the Witch House.
On the whole, this Cabinet of Curiosities is truly a gem of a series that succeed in indulging the fans of the genre. Not since the Black Mirror series has there been anything so close to satisfaction.