Absolutely Horrorfied

Thoughts and reviews of horror films, TV shows, and more.

This article is a delightful look into the process of creating the show. How Guillermo del Toro's team built a 'Cabinet of Curiosities' full of hand-picked horror

You can feel del Toro's touch throughout the whole show, but you can definitely tell that he also tried to let every director's style and vision shine through.

This quote is amazing:

“He is a magical character, as much as any one of his creatures,” Natali said of Del Toro. “And I feel like he is the great impresario of the Cinema Fantastique, and I think he plays an important role as somebody who can articulate what that is, in a way that very few have in the past. He really understands the cultural importance of horror, and science fiction, and fantasy, and myth, in our present day world. I think that he's elevated the genre in that way, in a very protective way, like a museum curator would. And I feel very honored, and lucky, to somehow have been caught up in that net that he's cast.”

This is a blog by Sarah Anne. Find me on Mastodon.

I watched #Hellraiser (1987) for the first time yesterday, and I kind of don't know what the hell I just saw.

I gotta be honest, the 80s and 90s are not my preferred decades for horror films (1982 John Carpenter masterpiece The Thing notwithstanding). So that's some of it.

I do watch and enjoy weird shit. Baskin (2015) makes Hellraiser look quaint af as far as bizarre hellishness goes. So it's not that weirdness is automatically a problem for me. I also didn't dislike it, per se, and I will watch some more Hellraiser films because the series is significant in horror history.

There's just something about this film that has me going “what is going on though?


I may have just answered my wtf question a bit. I was thinking that the film felt like it was based on some existing intellectual property, like it would have made more sense in another medium et voila! Turns out it is based on a horror novella, The Hellbound Heart. Ok, so that explains the vibes I was getting.


Seriously, this film felt less like a plot or character-driven story and more like it just sort of “happened”, and it doesn't have a clear POV. At some point we switch over from Julia to Kirsty as our apparent protagonist, and it feels kind of confusing. I think this is the sort of thing that tends to work better in a novel than a film, and may be a major piece of what feels off to me.

To me, it would be a better film if Kirsty were introduced as one of two POV characters/protagonists from the beginning instead of feeling like a promoted supporting cast member halfway through.

Likewise, Julia just sort of got demoted. At the beginning of the film we were inside her head, but SPOILERS


SPOILERS

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she just dies without fanfare at the end. We don't get a chance to register shock or anger or anything at Frank draining her (or whatever we want to call it). It just happens. It really contributes to the wtf-ness of the movie to just...no longer have a connection to the character who was introduced to us as the story's protagonist.

...

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END SPOILERS

3/5 stars. Worth watching, but neither scary enough nor well-crafted enough for me to really feel a lot about it.

This is a blog by Sarah Anne. Find me on Mastodon.

I wrote the below toot after watching Panos Cosmatos' trippy sci-fi horror excursion The Viewing:

The thing with this series is that you will get the most out of it if you, like del Toro, are a horror fan. You will get the thrill of realizing how impeccably evocative Cosmatos' story is, how classic and familiar it feels.

Another thing to be conscious of is that I think short film is not a medium equally enjoyed by everyone. If you want a short film to just be essentially a feature film with a shorter run-time, you will find it disappointing and incomplete. Short films, like short stories, run a little more on vibes and mood than their longer counterparts. The mental and emotional payoff is packaged more densely. If you aren't going to be satisfied with a sharp punch of an ending, you're not going to be happy with a short film.

I adore short film as a medium for exactly that reason. So much richness can be put into such a small package and sometimes the “completeness” which a full-length feature film requires would actually dilute the delicious experience.

The Autopsy and The Viewing are both classic sci-fi horror tales (The Autopsy, is an adaptation of a horror short story by the same name; The Viewing is an original screenplay, but evocative of many other tales). Despite sharing this “genre” they are totally different types of stories, each rich and beautiful in its own way.

The Autopsy is cold with vibes of the detective genre. The Viewing is rich, lush, and absolutely psychedelic. This is the charm of what del Toro has gifted us in this series. Shining examples of story styles, lovingly crafted, each unique.


The Autopsy

Directed by: David Prior Teleplay by: David S. Goyer based on a short story by Michael Shea

Cast : – F. Murray Abraham – Glynn Turman – Luke Roberts

Run time: 58 minutes


If I ranked del Toro's introductions for these episodes from most to least Rod Serling, the intro for The Autopsy would rank as “second most Rod Serling” right after The Outside.

This episode is the third in the series, and it made me sit up and take notice in a way that its predecessors, charming as they were, did not. It reminded me of my first encounters with horror as a literary genre. The thing is I can't remember specifics. I feel like I remembering reading the Michael Shae short story, but honestly when I try to recall, I go back in my mind instead to being in my grandparents' basement reading Leiningen Versus the Ants. A different thing entirely, but it's something of that feeling for me, my early somewhat unwitting encounters with how terror could build on the written page.

For much of The Autopsy, you are trying to solve the mystery, but when the answer comes, it's easy to forget there ever was a mystery to begin with, because instead you are so absorbed in the horrific thing in front of you and the cold, hopeless feeling that cruelty will inevitably conquer...unless....

And that “unless” keeps you hanging on to the very end.

The visuals, by the way, are disturbing. The body horror, the grotesquery, all there. All as it should be.

5/5 stars


The Viewing

Directed by: Panos Cosmatos Written by: Panos Cosmatos & Aaron Stewart-Ahn

Cast : – Peter Weller – Steve Agee – Eric Andre – Sofi Boutrkla – Charlyne Yi – Michael Therriault – Saad Siddiqui

Run time: 56 minutes


In much the way that the protagonists in this tale are offered “the good stuff” by their host, I felt “now this is the good stuff” as I watched. The play of light and color and sound create impeccable vibes here as Cosmatos weaves his tale of the bizarre.

Peter Weller's performance is foundational to this piece. Without his mesmerizing, slightly menacing, yet comforting, presence this story might not captivate, but thanks in large part to this performance, we the viewers find ourselves caught, like the characters, in what appears to be his web: held in place until it is too late.

We should not give credit to only one actor though. A film like this requires its full cast to carry their weight. And they do. On a note of personal taste, I found Michael Therriault's performance as a slightly fussy famed psychic to be especially entertaining.

The soundscape is wonderful, the visual design stunning, the performances entrancing.

4.5/5 stars

This is a blog by Sarah Anne. Find me on Mastodon.

Cabinet of Curiosities

Okay, let's say it up front, taken as a whole: Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities is delectable. I believe his creative involvement varies between episodes, but his fingerprints are all over the entire series. Del Toro delights in the place where beauty & horror meet, and that is what these short films give us.

So far I've watched 6 out of the 8 episodes. The 6th, Dreams in the Witch House, is weakest I've seen so far. It wasn't bad; it just didn't quite manage to meet the high standards set by the preceding films.

The best so far (having not yet watched The Viewing or The Murmuring), in my opinion, the one that had me thinking “now, THAT was an hour well spent” was the third, The Autopsy. It has the benefit of being based on a sci-fi short story of the kind where even if you didn't actually read it yourself, you probably sort of absorbed it from the ether, because it's THAT classic of a plot. The purest kind of sci-fi horror where something sort of heady & intellectual meets up with gore and viscera. But we're not there yet.

del Toro's introductions to the episodes give an old-school, Rod Serling feel (I am told this series owes more to Night Gallery than to The Twilight Zone, but I have not yet had the pleasure of watching Night Gallery). This conceit, with the cabinet with all the doors and drawers and trinkets is an important part of the charm of this series. The real hook of this series in my opinion is not horror as much as it is delight. It's the thrill of discovery of something new and strange.


Lot 36

Directed by: Guillermo Navarro Teleplay by: Regina Corrado & Guillermo del Toro *based on a short story by Guillermo del Toro

Cast : – Tim Blake Nelson – Sebastian Roché – Demetrius Grosse – Elpidia Carrillo

Run time: 45 minutes


First off, let's talk intro. The intro to Cabinet of Curiosities: Lot 36 functions brilliantly as an introduction to both the series & the specific episode. Del Toro has such a charming and earnest quality to him that makes these intro sequences work.

And of course this episode has a natural place at the beginning of the series, as the storage lot functions as its own “cabinet of curiosities.

The beginning scene of Lot 36 is a demonstration that short film is a perfect showcase for grotesque imagery. The revulsion at watching a dead animal chopped on a cutting board is all that's needed to put the mind in the mood for what follows.

Something I love about short stories and short films is the fact that an individual character doesn't need an entire character arc. Tim Blake Nelson's character is quickly and concretely established to give us something to hang our hat on as the story happens. A person relatable enough for us to be able to experience the story through him, but awful enough that if horrible things happen (and of course they will), we'll enjoy the horror.

Solid 4/5 stars from me. Though I should probably not start a rating system with how conflicted that can make me feel.

This is a blog by Sarah Anne. Find me on Mastodon.