As a horror master and auteur, Guillermo del Toro has earned his rightful moment in the limelight, in this case leading the camera, Alfred Hitchcock-style, in “Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.” It’s unfortunate that this eight-episode horror anthology from Netflix lacks the director’s filmography, with episodes that feature incredible special effects but half-baked stories that don’t draw blood.
Netflix will try something different by premiering episodes of “Cabinet of Curiosities” four nights in a row that are more inventive, or at least more distinctive, than most stories. That includes a couple of del Toro’s own original ideas, “Lot 36” and “The Murmuring,” as well as two from horror author HP Lovecraft, “Dreams in the Witch House” and “Pickman’s Model,” logically bundled together. the third night
As HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” proved, transferring Lovecraft to the screen in a consistent manner is a formidable challenge, one that essentially boils down to frustrations. The tone is certainly macabre enough, with a strong cast including Tim Blake Nelson, F. Murray Abraham, Glynn Turman, Ben Barnes, Rupert Grint and Andrew Lincoln. Del Toro has also handpicked the directors, reflecting an eclectic range of projects and styles.
The stories, however, feel flimsy, with unintriguing premises that don’t necessarily pay off, simply as they run out of time: neutralizing the filmmakers’ impact, and creating the overall impression of an exercise that, despite its promise, is relatively incoherent. disappointing
The episode that perhaps best exemplifies this, “The Viewing,” certainly begins well enough, with a wealthy recluse (Peter Weller) gathering a group of accomplished professionals in various fields to view a curious artifact in his possession. After a night of heavy chemical consumption, what is finally revealed proves to be a huge disadvantage, a “Cabinet” pattern repeats itself over and over again.
By contrast, the most intriguing title similar to “Black Mirror,” or at least “The Outside,” stars Kate Micucci as an awkward woman who wants to be accepted by her snooty coworkers and the fix-your-life products she sees advertised on TV ( Dan Stevens has a funny cameo as the spokesman) have significant side effects.
There’s obviously a long and rich history of anthology in this genre — “The Twilight Zone,” often revived and imitated but never equaled, remains the gold standard — but that raises the bar in terms of expectations. Also due to the participation of del Toro, with the resume of the Oscar winner “The Shape of Water”, the true masterpiece of the film “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the distinctive visual style of imagination, which also characterizes his smaller films.
To be fair, there is inevitably a hit-or-miss quality to the format. However, even with these disclaimers, “Cabinet of Curiosities” feels weightless story-wise: it opens doors with del Toro’s intense enthusiasm and too often finds the shelves a little empty.
“Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities” will premiere on Netflix from October 25 to 28.