Cabinet of Curiosities Directors Discuss Their Short Horror Movies

Dec 24, 2022

The new Netflix horror anthology show, Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, finds the Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy filmmaker curating eight mostly excellent segments from well-known directors to tell spooky, thought-provoking stories that are perfect for Halloween. Released two at a time over four days leading up to the end of October, the series finds a star-studded cast and amazing mix of creators coming together for one of the best horror anthologies in recent memory.

Vincenzo Natali directs a deliriously fun, gruesome little gem with Graveyard Rats, the shortest segment of the bunch but one of it’s most entertaining. Catherine Hardwicke updates a classic H.P. Lovecraft story for her emotional, dramatic rendition of Dreams in the Witch House. Ana Lily Amirpour directs a haunting, offbeat meditation on beauty and self-image with The Outside. Panos Cosmatos creates a spellbinding audiovisual blast of hipness with the wonderfully weird segment The Viewing. Finally, actor, director, and all-around artist Crispin Glover is incredible as the titular character in Pickman’s Model, a disturbing Lovecraft adaptation about the power of art. They all spoke with MovieWeb about the series.

Vincenzo Natali on Graveyard Rats


Filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro was a great choice to help put together Cabinet of Curiosities, and not just because he has a wonderful eye for horror; he’s also been an extremely helpful and supportive proponent of many other directors. Aside from the many films and shows he’s helped produced, he’s been thanked 86 times in the credits of other people’s projects. Del Toro has been friends with director Vincenzo Natali for a long time, even producing his 2010 film Splice.

“I’ve known Guillermo for a long time, even before Splice, because I guess the geeks stick together,” said the charming Natali, who also directed the recently released Prime Video series The Peripheral. “He’s such a generous, lovely impresario of the fantastic arts, and I will never forget when, the very first time I met him, he gave me this big bear hug and said ‘I love your movie!’ I thought he would say Cube, because that’s the one that people generally gravitate towards. And he said Cypher, which is my second film, which nobody’s seen but which I have a great affection for. And that really touched me, and I think that’s emblematic of how Guillermo appreciates the cinema fantastique in a depth that very few people do.”

Related: Nothing Matters and Vincenzo Natali’s Movie Proves It

Del Toro essentially had a list of scripts and stories that people could choose from and adapt as their own, though he was also open to original ideas. Natali chose a story by Henry Kuttner, an underrated Lovecraftian author from the first half of the 20th century, the gruesomely macabre Graveyard Rats, now on Netflix. The wonderful segment finds longtime Natali actor David Hewlett giving a tour de force performance as the delightful rapscallion Old Masson, who robs graves to pay his debts. When rats nab the treasured jewels buried with a corpse, Masson finds himself navigating their vast underground tunnels.

David Hewlett Steals Cabinet of Curiosities


“David and I have a long and storied path, beginning with when I was 15,” said Natali. “He sort of became my muse. I feel like David is a bit of my alter ego, unfortunately for him. I can just go on for hours about all the things that I love about David, but I think one of his secrets to what makes him so appealing is this kind of vulnerability. So even when he’s playing like a completely detestable character, like in Graveyard Rats, you can’t help but love him, even when he’s robbing a grave or pulling the teeth out of a corpse. Also, there’s something fun about watching him suffer. He’s really good at suffering.”

“I don’t think we could have made it with anyone else, because honestly, I’m not sure any other actor would have put up with it,” said Natali, who had a literal maze of tunnels constructed for Hewlett to crawl through, filming it as if watching an ant farm from the side. “We basically built a rat maze that was 100% solid on all sides, and we put David in it, and we put a camera on a rail system. There’s no operator physically in that space, and the primary lighting source was David himself with his flashlight […] It was so physically demanding. David had rats running over his face, and he never complained. Everybody was enraptured with David because he was such a trooper, and he just goes for it […] it’s almost a one-man show, really.”

Ana Lily Amirpour on The Outside of Cabinet of Curiosities


Ana Lily Amirpour is a visionary director. After one of the most acclaimed debut films of the last decade, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, she wrote and directed two woefully underrated but extremely cool movies with The Bad Batch and Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon. Amirpour’s Oct. 26th installment of Cabinet of Curiosities, titled The Outside, is the first time not directing her own script, but she told MovieWeb that Guillermo Del Toro had a story specifically in mind for her.

Haley Z. Boston adapted the teleplay for The Outside from a short story by Emily Carroll, the genius behind His Face All Red, Margot’s Room, and Through the Woods. Set in a vaguely 1980s suburbia, the pastel-colored, Christmastime episode follows a bank teller who hates the way she looks. She is ignored by her co-workers and feels ostracized, despite a loving husband, and her mental health seems to deteriorate. During a TV infomercial, she believes that the spokesman for a moisturizing cream (hilariously played by Dan Stevens) is talking to her directly. She orders an inordinate amount of the expensive product, continuing to slather herself in it despite the itchy, dark red rashes which burn across her skin as a consequence.

Related: Exclusive: New Cliffhanger Director Ana Lily Amirpour Says Movie is a ‘Reinvention,’ Not a Remake

Like The Outside itself, the performances from Kate Micucci and Martin Starr are funny but also deeply sad, and a haunting, melancholic madness takes over Amirpour’s film as Micucci’s character Stacey becomes more obsessed with the beauty product and the way she looks. It’s not the scariest episode of Cabinet of Curiosities, but it’s one of the most thought-provoking and disturbing for its themes of self-image and the beauty industry.

“I think every single person suffers from physical insecurity,” said Amirpour, “even the people that you think are perfect, and happy, and beautiful, or whatever it is. I think there’s always more going on. We are more than this, you know, more than the outside. I think it’s a test of your own sanity how you come to peace with yourself as you are and look.”

Cabinet of Curiosities’ Themes


Like several of the directors involved in Cabinet of Curiosities, Panos Cosmatos (Mandy) is the kind of uncompromising genius one wouldn’t expect to see direct a segment of an anthology. However, again like the others, he creates his own masterful film that completely stands out but also somehow feels of a whole. That’s because The Viewing, Cosmatos’ installment, seems to be directly about many of the themes in Cabinet of Curiosities.

The title of the horror anthology show is taken from the old pieces of furniture (or sometimes rooms) which housed exotic, bizarre, or simply fascinating objects, little curiosities people would show off. The series is, in many ways, about the nature of collecting, the meaning of ownership and possession, and the power of things. Practically every episode is centered around possessions and the system of objects — items hoarded in a storage unit; jewels and treasures stolen from corpses; commercial beauty products one must buy more and more of; collections of paintings on display in curated galleries.

Cosmatos’ The Viewing is the most direct manifestation of this theme, with four people, famous as experts in their respective fields, invited to a private viewing of a mysterious, wealthy man’s collection. The old elitist (played by Peter Weller in an immediately iconic way) collects not just art and memories, but drugs, talent, and labor. The music he plays is made specifically for him, unavailable to anyone else; his drugs and weapons are crafted and concocted only for him. The item he wants to show off, however, might be dangerous.

Panos Cosmatos on The Viewing


Cosmatos’ father, also a filmmaker, was quite the collector of books and a generous bibliophile. When asked if that influenced his Oct. 28th installment The Viewing, Cosmatos responded, “Absolutely. I mean, the character’s not based on my dad, but I’ve been around collecting, hardcore collectors and sellers, and a lot of my friends are collectors and have incredible knowledge about the things they collect. I collect, myself, a certain degree.”

Like the actual cabinets of curiosity of yore, the concept of collection has diminished with the digital era; tangible objects become less desirable when they exist in the ether of the internet, often for free or as part of a corporate streaming package. In many ways, Cabinet of Curiosities reflects upon this, as does Cosmatos and his film. “I think it’s both good and bad. It’s bad because it’s become polarizing. Mostly things are just available,” said Cosmatos, who contrasted the resurgence in vinyl and toy collecting with the total digitalization of cinema. Today, he said with a laugh, physical artistic objects are something like “IRL NFTs.”

Crispin Glover on Art and Pickman’s Model


Physical art is very much the subject of the excellent Oct. 27th installment Pickman’s Model, which takes place in the early 20th century as art became increasingly modern, abstract, and dark, especially the visual arts. The Keith Thomas film follows a well-liked young painting student who encounters art like he’s never seen before — the ghastly, disturbing, yet entrancing work of Richard Pickman, played to odd perfection by Crispin Glover, the legendary actor and director who has done such great recent work on American Gods.

The character of Pickman gave Glover a chance to delve into the period in which Lovecraft’s fascinating and breathless short story was written, and to meticulously capture the timeliness and embedded reality of the character. To help do this, he worked to develop a very precise way of colloquial communication, one which is weirdly captivating. “The story was written a long time ago, and something I can’t help but notice is dialect differentiations of periods,” said Glover. “I was luckily able to work with a very excellent dialect coach, named Erik Singer, and I asked him to develop, and kind of reverse engineer […] not a contemporary Bostonian accent, but something that could feel a bit older.”


In many ways, Pickman resonates with Glover, reflecting back the image of a dedicated artist whose uncompromising work exposes society’s relationship with the taboos, ugliness, and darkness which have been so censoriously washed away from mainstream culture. This is also somewhat true of another literary character Glover brilliantly brought to life, Bartleby. That Herman Melville character, famous for saying “I would prefer not to,” was partly based on Melville himself, just as Pickman was partly based upon Lovecraft’s own life as an artist creating dark things which ran counter to ‘acceptable’ culture. This is perhaps why Glover is so great in both roles, because he can relate.

“[Melville] had made a lot of money doing these seafaring novels. Then he wanted to do something different, and they weren’t making as much money,” said Glover. “I’ve experienced that myself. Everybody says, ‘Oh, it’s great to be an artist, follow your own thing,’ but we live in a capitalist culture. So when Bartleby the Scrivener says, ‘I’d prefer not to,’ to me it’s very evident that it’s him saying, ‘I don’t want to keep writing the same seafaring novel, I want to do something else.’ And people think of him as crazy. They think you’re crazy if you want to do something artistic, and there’s something to that with [Pickman’s Model] as well.”

Catherine Hardwicke on Dreams in the Witch House


Glover is right, of course — people did think Lovecraft was crazy. If they thought he was mad when he wrote Pickman’s Model in 1926, they would find him downright insane when he wrote The Dreams in the Witch House in 1932. This abstract story about a student of non-Euclidean mathematics discovering an extradimensional portal of unearthly geometry is a difficult one to adapt, but it’s attempted by filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke (so famous for Thirteen and Twilight, but whose films Lords of Dogtown and Red Riding Hood should not be overlooked).

The underrated Rupert Grint (of Ron Weasley and Harry Potter fame) does a fabulous job portraying a man desperate to discover the supernatural after seeing his sister’s ghost in Dreams in the Witch House, an Oct. 27th episode. Hardwicke and writer Mika Watkins change much of Lovecraft’s story in order to ground it in an emotional study of belief, obsession, and filial love, without losing the creepy, creaking heart of the thing (and the rat with a human face, of course).

“It’s very internal, the actual story of Dreams in the Witch House,” said Hardwicke. “We almost never leave the Witch House, we never leave his mind, and he writes in so much detail about the sounds and the atmosphere, but not a lot of action. So what Mika did, I think, was she created the sister character, the motivation, she set up a whole story and a goal for this guy, so I think she added a lot to it that made it more visual and more cinematic.”

Rupert Grint and the Dream of Cabinet of Curiosities


Rupert Grint (alongside an excellent Ismael Cruz Córdova) carries so much of Dreams in the Witch House through his sheer intensity and vulnerability. “I thought of Rupert, and it seemed a little out of the box, but then everybody just really started liking that ideas. And he’s so interesting to me, I just couldn’t believe it, I loved working with him. I mean, he’s not a diva at all. He’s just so dedicated, and he really drew me with his performance.” Grint does a wonderful job, perhaps because it was personal, playing a man searching other dimensions for his dead sister. “He felt very connected to it. He had recently lost a close member of his family,” said Hardwicke.

As Hardwicke says, “very strong and powerful women made it quite interesting” in the fantastic supporting cast, including Tenika Davis and Nia Vardalos. The creature design was also a boon for Hardwicke, who was thrilled to get to work with Del Toro and his assemblage of masterful artists. “It was a thrill for me to meet all of his creature people and go to the shop, and be involved in that whole process with such a creature master like Guillermo,” said Hardwicke, who worked with Oscar-nominated costume and production designers from Del Toro’s other projects to create a lavish, dark period drama wrapped up in a nightmare. “It was a dream come true.”

Produced by Exile Entertainment and Double Dare You, Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is being released over four consecutive days on Netflix beginning Oct. 25th.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
Publisher: Source link

‘Evil Dead Rise’ Director on Why He Couldn’t Tell a Story with Ash in the Cabin

I had the pleasure of catching Lee Cronin’s directorial debut, The Hole in the Ground, when it first premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. It was immediately apparent that Cronin was a must-watch genre director on the rise, but…

Mar 31, 2023

Teyana Taylor and Co. Discuss Celebrating Black Women with A Thousand and One

A Thousand and One is one of a kind, and a must-see. Anyone who saw it at Sundance last January, where it made its world premiere alongside other talks-of-the-town like Past Lives and Magazine Dreams, will tell you just how…

Mar 31, 2023

Melissa Barrera on the Changes to Sam She Pushed For

I always want more time at the end of interviews, but especially at the end of interviews with Melissa Barrera. I had the pleasure of having her on Collider Ladies Night in January of 2022 for the release of Scream…

Mar 31, 2023

How the Story Changed After Neve Campbell’s Exit

As though making a new installment of a beloved horror franchise isn’t hard enough, the team behind Scream VI had to make a new movie without the heart and soul of the franchise, Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott. While many assumed…

Mar 31, 2023