By Bradley Lane
Guillermo del Toro is one of cinema’s premier auteur directors. Starting from an ultra- low budget background and specializing in emotionally rich creature features, he’s worked his way up from midnight cult classics to critically acclaimed masterpieces. In 2017 his thoughtful storytelling techniques and excellent creature design propelled his film The Shape of Water to the highest honor a film can achieve winning that year’s Academy Award for Best Picture. Now, he’s taking after another famous auteur, Alfred Hitchcock. Partnering with Netflix for his own anthology series hosted by the man himself and showcasing some of the most exciting new directors working in the horror space, his first episode “Lot 36” shows a lot of promise.
Starring Tim Blake Nelson as Nick Appleton, “Lot 36” is set during the tumultuous Persian Gulf crisis of 1990. Introduced to the audience listening to a far-right radio station spewing anti-immigrant racism, Appleton is down on his luck but thinks he might have struck gold after being tipped off on a storage unit up for sale. What follows his acquisition of the abandoned items in the unit is supremely supernatural and fits perfectly in del Toro’s allegorical storytelling style with fresh talent behind the camera to add life to this creepy short film.
Longtime collaborator and more specifically, cinematographer for del Toro, Guillermo Navarro helms the director’s chair for this installment into the anthology and it is safe to assume he has been influenced by del Toro’s style after all these years working together. In fact I might have believed del Toro himself directed this had del Toro not introduced Navarro with the film. Some might be disappointed to see the series beginning with what could be considered a lesser version of Guillermo del Toro’s style, but as it turns out, a lesser version of a master is still really good.
Shot with Navarro’s signature attention to color, the gray color palette of the film is shot with such skill that what in another’s lens might seem dull and lifeless is practically leaping off the screen with character. Additionally the script is tight and rife with political and emotional complexity that is impressive for its 45-minute runtime. Despite sometimes falling into cliche and inconsistent performances from its cast, the short remains entertaining and consistent throughout.
With the promise of more great episodes releasing all this week leading up Halloween by some of my favorite new voices in horror (Jennifer Kent, Panos Cosmatos and David Prior to name a few) Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is a must watch during this spooky season. Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is now streaming only on Netflix. – 3.5/5 stars