Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities premiered on Netflix on Tuesday, October 25, 2022, with the first two episodes, differing significantly from the format the network usually follows. The anthology series, presented by Guillermo Del Toro, the trademark name in artistic horror films, features eight different directors taking the reins of their stories to create something very unique.
If the first episode hinted at Del Toro’s thematic style and subdued horror elements, the second episode went all-out in creating a nearly suffocating atmosphere with all the elements of a perfect horror film, including moral corruption, scary creatures, a tense tone, and a complete circle of life and death.
Even if the first episode was hampered by an occasionally predictable plot, the second episode, Graveyard Rats, delivered on Del Toro’s promise of redefining genre conventions. It’s nearly impossible to do something new in horror, but doing bits and pieces of many tried-and-true elements can be surprisingly satisfying.
Graveyard Rats by director Vincenzo Natali had a surprising amount of conviction from the very start. The approach taken by the writer-director to the film was truly unique. Taking us back to 1900s Salem, the period piece began with enough gore and a difficult subject to frighten viewers from the start.
It is essentially the story of Masson (David Hewlett), a gravedigger with a side business of robbing graves after they have been buried. Mason, with his intricate struggles and human greed, is a compelling protagonist who demonstrates various facets of human logic and behavior. While the land of Salem contains dark secrets beneath its surface, it was initially led by something other than conventionally frightening rats.
Rats, often used to describe traitors or cowards, can be used to terrifying effect, as displayed in this episode. The episode has a dark tone that helps these little creatures achieve the level of fear required by the script. With this episode, Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities also constantly comments on certain inevitable human aspects, like greed, fear, and repentance.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities episode 2 was scary enough before the giant rat monster or half-dead skeletal figure showed up, but when it did, it was a masterclass in horror. The exceptional camera work inside the dingy tunnels beneath the ground deserves special mention. The cinematography and lighting also evoke claustrophobia from the other side of the screen, which is a feat.
A fascinating script, brilliant acting, and some wonderful technical mastery make this episode of Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities stand-out.
The episode ended with one of the most scarring and brilliant scenes in modern horror shows and films. Graveyard Rats was an excellent start to Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and hopefully the remaining episodes will live up to the hype.