“Can we capture the golden era of fantasy anthologies that we grew up with?” questions Guillermo del Toro, master of the macabre, who presents Cabinet of Curiosities, a new anthology series that surprises, delights and horrifies as eight hand-picked writers and directors tackle stories from otherworldly creatures to internal demons, plumbs the depths of the human psyche as it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (or simply Cabinet of Curiosities) is a horror anthology streaming television series created by Guillermo del Toro for Netflix.
In Cabinet of Curiosities, acclaimed Academy Award-winning filmmaker and creator, executive producer and co-showrunner Guillermo del Toro has curated a collection of unprecedented and genre-defining stories meant to challenge our traditional notions of horror. From macabre to magical, gothic to grotesque or classically creepy, these eight equally sophisticated and sinister tales (including two original stories by del Toro).
“I grew up watching all the anthologies: Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, One Step Beyond, Thriller'” says del Toro. “I love Black Mirror but I wondered why no more anthologies happen. They’re very
difficult to put together. [Laughs] It’s like shooting eight movies at the same time, with a lot of complications and complexities and temperaments and different flavors. But I think that was the idea:
Can we capture the golden era of fantasy anthologies that we grew up with?”
Hundreds of years ago when traveling was a commodity that few could afford safely and people wanted to still get a sense of the wonders of the world, curiosities were collected by seafarers, adventurers, charlatans, you know, and they were exhibited in a room that was called a Cabinet of Curiosities. Oftentimes you had the skull of a large mammal or the narwhal horn — you called it a unicorn horn— and you had Fiji mermaids, which were taxidermy pieces. People came to see them and they were a sort of status symbol. The person showing the curiosities opened a new world to the spectators. That was the idea: Can we open eight pieces of a collection, curated by me, with eight directors I like or I want to bring attention to, and give them complete freedom and let them do a forty to sixty-minute piece to their liking, supporting them? That emulates the idea of a Cabinet of Curiosities being opened for spectators to see the world through somebody else’s eyes.
“I think that horror has a sliding scale, like humor,” says Del Toro. “What is scary to you is not scary to me. What is funny to you is not funny to me. Or vice versa. So the important thing is that there is an idea behind it. And not necessarily a deep lesson, but an idea.”
“I tried to put together a list of twenty stories or so that I read and loved in anthologies as a kid. They
vary in style and they vary in importance. “Here are a couple of Lovecraft stories that I read when I was
young. Graveyard Rats was a story I read when I was very young and I got so scared that I called my father to open the door of my room. Lot 36 and Murmuring were ideas I had for a long time.”
“Well, anything that Guillermo wants to do, I want to do,” says Showrunner and producer J. Miles Dale “He had an idea to do an anthology curated around directors. I was a big fan of the Twilight Zone and Night Gallery and all of those shows growing up and the idea of an anthology intrigued me just because of the variety that it offered. We started with the concept and as we started to read the stories, different stories started to appeal to me and as we looked at the directors, the breadth of the skill sets and voices appealed to me, so every step of the way a new aspect appealed to me.”
“I think it’s going to be entertaining, thought provoking certainly, scary in places, and ultimately pretty riveting because it’s visually beautiful. The stories are unique and in many cases legendary in the horror canon. You’re not going to be able to turn it off and there is something in each of these stories that’s going to stick with you,” says J. Miles Dale.
The Anthology Series
From macabre to magical, gothic to grotesque or classically creepy, these eight equally sophisticated and sinister tales (including two original stories by del Toro) are brought to life by a team of writers and directors personally chosen by del Toro.
In Lot 36, a bigoted man who needs to pay off a violent debt collector a bitter, attends storage unit auctions to flip antiques. When he buys Lot 36, he gets much more than he bargained for. It was written by: Regina Corrado, based on an original story by: Guillermo del Toro, and directed by Guillermo Navarro: To pay off a violent debt collector a bitter, bigoted man attends storage unit auctions to flip antiques. “It’s a very good script that Del Toro wrote with Regina Corrado,” says Navarro. ‘When I read it, I just saw it, so directing it was a pleasure. It’s going to have all kinds of reactions. It’s about how you step into a world that you’re attracted to but then what choices you make.”
Masson is a clever but weasley cemetery caretaker who moonlights as a grave robber in Graveyard Rats. To pay off his mounting debts, he digs up the grave of a wealthy shipping merchant and becomes locked in a battle with the titular rodents. Written and Directed by: Vincenzo Natali, based on the short story by Henry Kuttner. “I hope the audience feels nauseous!” says Natali. “I they are, like, sitting, quivering in a cold sweat at the end of my episode. And yet, somehow feel thrilled by it. If I could accomplish that, that would be great.”
A string of missing persons cases leads a sheriff to a suspect who himself ends up dead in The Autopsy. The sheriff turns to his friend the medical examiner to determine what really happened and the autopsy takes a shocking turn. Directed by: David Prior, written by: David S. Goyer, based on the short story by Michael Shea. “I hope viewers have a rip-roaring good time and any reminder that science fiction and horror and fantasy as a genre do not necessarily preclude mature and interesting complex adult themes is always worthwhile,” says Prior.
Stacey, an awkward self-conscious bank teller and amateur taxidermist who does not fit in with her gossipy colleagues discovers an expensive lotion called Alo Glo that causes a dramatic transformation in The Outside, directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour, written by: Haley Z. Boston and based on the short story by Emily Carroll.
In 1909, a pensive art student has his world turned upside down when he meets a quirky, introverted
new student, Richard Pickman –– a painter of the macabre in Pickman’s Model, directed by Keith Thomas, written by Lee Patterson, based on the short story by: H.P. Lovecraft. “It touched on themes that I’m fascinated by. Guillermo and I both have a similar fascination with certain aspects of the arts and we’re both very heavily influenced by literature,” says Thomas. “And we’ve got simpatico views in terms of monsters and how we present these scary dark themes. He’s been very, very involved in terms of the look and feel and the very practical approach of all the monsters, certainly in this episode.”
As a boy, Walter watched his twin sister Epperly die of an illness. He comforted her before she passed. When it finally happened he witnessed her enter a forest dimension sending him on a lifelong quest to find the realm she entered in Dreams in the Witch House. Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke, written by: Mika Watkins, based on the short story by: H.P. Lovecraft. “Mia Watkins is a beautiful writer who took the H.P. Lovecraft novella and just made it much more active and much more cinematic,” says Hardwicke. “She has this very strong imagination and figured out how to dramatize an internal novel. How to make it make us feel things, make us feel that conflict instead of just being inside a character’s head. She gave everyone interesting motives and really twisted the story into this beautiful tale.”
In 1979 under mysterious circumstances, four accomplished professionals are brought to the mansion
of a wealthy recluse and encounter a mind-blowing creature in The Viewing. Directed by: Panos Cosmatos, written by: Panos Cosmatos & Aaron Stewart-Ahn. “We were all under lockdown, and Guillermo appeared out of nowhere like this magical fairy, and asked me if I wanted to direct an episode, and I could do whatever I wanted,” says Cosmatos. “And it seemed like a nice way to get out of the mindset of the lockdown and reintegrate with society. He gave me total creative freedom, and I was very honored by that. It was an amazing experience to be able to make basically an experimental film with a Netflix budget.”
After experiencing a personal tragedy, expert ornithologists Nancy and Edgar Bradley travel to Nova Scotia to study dunlin flight patterns and encounter strange occurrences in the house where they are staying in The Murmuring, written and directed by: Jennifer Kent, based on an Original Story by Guillermo del Toro. ” I am drawn in by the process of grief and how people deal with it, or don’t deal with it. It suits itself to a horror space,” says Kent. “I think it was CS Lewis that said in the book that he wrote after the loss of his wife, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.” It is a frightening thing to go through. It’s a topic that has endless permutations, and I am fascinated by stories that revolve around grief and loss. I was unintentionally very inspired by M.R. James, who was a master storyteller and writer of ghost stories. He often started his stories in the intellectual academic world and then finished them in the natural world, with the mind and the brain being overcome by something much greater.”