SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for most episodes of the Netflix series, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities Season 1, so if you have not yet opened the cabinet, do not let your curiosity get the best of you and proceed with caution.
It is no surprise that one of Hollywood’s most gifted masters of fantasy and suspense, Guillermo del Toro, has given us one of the best horror anthology TV shows in recent memory with Cabinet of Curiosities. The series — which has been very popular on Netflix since premiering in late October 2022 — serves as a revival of old school horror TV shows by featuring the acclaimed filmmaker and creator as the host (a la Alfred Hitchcock Presents), but also appeals to modern audiences with some viscerally disturbing moments that are sure to leave audiences dumbstruck.
The eight tales from Season 1 of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities — each of which are helmed by a different talented director — are vastly different from one another in terms of theme and style, but the one thing that most of them share is at least one scene of pure shock that would haunt us long after the credits began to roll. The following are our picks for the show’s greatest hits of “WTF” moments.
Masson Meets The Mother Rat (“Graveyard Rats”)
Years after debuting with 1995’s Cube and helming a great Netflix original horror movie called In the Tall Grass, Vincenzo Natali once again proves his mastery of claustrophobic horror with the second episode of Cabinet of Curiosities, “Graveyard Rats,” which also proves he has a knack for creature features. After grave robber Masson (David Hewlett) finds his most profitable loot yet has been taken right out from his coffin by rats, he crawls after it through a series of tunnels underneath the cemetery, where he also discovers he is not the biggest living creature in there. If being trapped underground was not scary enough, coming across the rats’ monstrously large, large-fanged, man-eating mother is when things get really hairy.
Winters Destroys His Sensory Organs To Trap The Alien Parasite From Within (“The Autopsy”)
David Prior — known for directing the unjustly underrated and underseen, The Empty Man — helms, arguably, the best episode of Cabinet of Curiosities so far, “The Autopsy.” It stars Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham as the terminally ill Winters, who examines the victims of a strange mining incident and discovers one (Luke Roberts) is possessed by a parasitic extra-terrestrial with no sensory organs of its own that intends to make him his next host. Before the alien completes the transference, the coroner figures out how to prevent it from using his body for destruction in a way that really makes the skin crawl: rendering himself blind and deaf by taking a scalpel to his eardrums and his eyes.
Stacey Makes Out With Alo Glo’s Humanoid Form (“The Outside”)
Speaking of skin, Stacey — Kate Micucci’s character from the fourth Cabinet of Curiosities episode, “The Outside” — is a textbook example of someone not comfortable in her own, which is why she proceeds to literally destroy it in hopes to become more like her catty co-workers with a popular moisturizer called Alo Glo. What she does not realize is that this miracle product (which is causing her to break into a hideous rash) has a mind of its own until she finds that it has manifested into a human-shaped being. When she does discover this manifestation, instead of the terrified reaction you might have anticipated, she embraces this walking slab of goop, which quickly evolves into a passionate kiss.
Stacey Taxidermies Her Husband (“The Outside”)
There were actually many, many bewildering moments all throughout “The Outside” — helmed by one of horror’s best female directors, Ana Lily Amirpour — but another one that really deserves its own special mention here happens after Stacey brutally murders her cop husband, Keith (Martin Starr), and her transformation into a soulless beauty queen was complete. She puts her taxidermy skills to use, props her gutted, stuffed hubby up on the couch in front of the TV, and leaves to show off her new look to her coworkers. The lingering shot of Keith’s lifeless body and blank, beady stare (courtesy of actual beads in the place of his eyes) is one of the most unsettling sights of the entire series.
Thurber Finds His Son In The Oven (“Pickman’s Model”)
Yet another example of people missing their eyes on Cabinet of Curiosities comes from Keith Thomas’ adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model,” in which early 20th-century art curator William Thurber (Ben Barnes) meets an artist (Back to the Future cast member Crispin Glover) whose grotesque work has a truly devilish effect on its observers. The episode ends with Thurber coming home to find his wife, Rebecca (Oriana Leman), who caught a glimpse of a Pickman painting earlier, preparing dinner and discovers she has gouged her own eyes out — but that is not even the worst part. The meal she is preparing turns out to be their young son, James (Remy Flint), who has been butchered and is heating up in their oven.
Jenkins Takes Over Gilmans’ Body (“Dreams in the Witch House”)
Yet another example of parasitic possession on Cabinet of Curiosities occurs in Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke’s H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, “Dreams in the Witch House,” in which Harry Potter actor Rupert Grint plays a man named Walter Gilman, who takes a drug that allows him to reunite with his deceased sister. However, these temporary trips to the afterlife make him the target of an executed witch’s spirits (Lize Johnston) and a rat with a humanesque face named Jenkins Brown (D.J. Qualls), who ends up getting what he wants in the end by burrowing into Gilman’s body and claiming it as his own. I certainly never expected this fascinating ghost story to have such a stomach-churning and baffling conclusion, which might be the most insane ending of the series.
The Meteor Gruesomely Claims Its Victims (“The Viewing”)
On the other hand, “The Viewing” is a deliciously strange and unusually compelling slow burn that envelopes into one of the gnarliest endings I have ever seen. Panos Cosmatos — director of one of the best horror movies on Shudder, Mandy — helms and co-writes with Aaron Stewart-Ahn this star-studded, mesmerizing ‘70s throwback about a group of people who (save a couple) meet their dooms when they are invited to bear witness to an otherworldly artifact encasing a powerful creature. After Targ (Michael Therriault) and Dr. Zahra (Sofia Boutella) melt away, Guy’s (Steve Agee) head explodes, and Lassiter (Peter Weller) becomes bonded with the monster, Charlotte (Charlene Yi) and Randall (Eric André) are, luckily, able escape before they fall prey to its wrath… for now, at least.
This is exactly what horror fans want from an anthology series — on top of a collection of diverse, one-off stories, they want a collection of moments that tap into their deepest fears and cause them to question their sanity. Overall, it makes me want to see more from Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities so, hopefully, we can expect another season (or seasons) soon.
Read More: 7 WTF Moments From Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet Of Curiosities Series