With Halloween upon us, audiences are itching for new content to celebrate spooky season right. For some, re-watching “Hocus Pocus” may do the trick, but others need a spine-chilling horror movie full of jump scares and paranormal activity. Unfortunately for those who resonate with the latter, there may be little hope this year as Netflix’s new episodic anthology, “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” is sure to fall short of your expectations, leaving the holiday a little less haunted than you had hoped.
This may come as a surprise to those familiar with the work of director Guillermo del Toro, who is famously known for his fantastical horror films “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Shape of Water.” The Oscar-winning director never fails to embrace the imagination through his grotesque visuals and inconceivable storylines. While these aspects are present in “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” they cannot make up for what the rest of the show lacks: consistently well-developed plot lines.
This episodic anthology includes eight different horror stories written and directed by various filmmakers. The pilot, for instance, titled “Lot 36,” is based on a short story by del Toro himself. The story unfolds in a rundown storage facility where units are sold off to the highest bidder. After unit 36’s owner passes away, a hateful war veteran, Nick Appleton (Tim Blake Nelson, “Old Henry”), buys it in search of something that will get him out of debt. Instead, he discovers that the unit belonged to a Nazi with a knack for Satanism.
With the knowledge that something horrific is bound to occur within the 41-minute pilot, the audience can’t help but be hooked. However, as the plot progresses for the first 30 minutes, there are no supernatural or shocking occurrences that live up to the anticipation that has been built up throughout the episode. Thus, what originally seemed like a slow burn is seen for what it truly is: a long-winded escalation of suspense leading up to a mediocre outcome.
It is not necessarily the short episodes that are the issue. Compared to “Black Mirror,” a renowned episodic anthology, “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities” fails to succinctly portray the story’s events, develop strong characters and execute a truly horrifying plot line. That said, an additional few minutes cannot possibly compensate for what the majority of the episode couldn’t successfully accomplish. This is especially the case for “Lot 36,” because as the pilot comes to a close, the viewer is left with many unanswered questions and very little satisfaction. For example, the history of the unit’s deceased owner and his role in the German Nazi Party is only briefly alluded to but never fleshed out. There are plot holes that inevitably reduce the story’s impact on the audience. Sadly, the same can be said for most of the following episodes; an initial feeling of optimism for what’s to come is followed by unavoidable discontent with what occurs.
As someone who can barely tolerate anything scary, “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities” left me strangely relieved. While it attempted to incite fear, it failed. The series doesn’t live up to its potential, especially for horror enthusiasts. So, beware: If you’re in search of something extra spooky this Halloween, Guillermo’s episodic anthology may not be the treat to satiate your cravings.
Daily Arts Writer Molly Hirsch can be reached at email@example.com.