Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities Boasts a Master’s Standards | TV/Streaming

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Rupert Grint stars in Catherine Hardwicke’s “Dreams in the Witch House,” as a 1930s man who seeks to connect with his twin sister Epperley years after she died. Despite the intrigue from its casting (including Nia Vardalos and DJ Qualls), this visually drab story of grief and haunted spaces only has its punchiness to keep it interesting—it constantly shifts and tries to raise the stakes. But this one is also guilty of being the most plain, its ideas about denying grief only more memorable because the rat ain’t no ordinary rat. 

Making his long-anticipated next project after “Mandy,” Panos Cosmatos turns “Cabinet of Curiosities” into his own unmistakable toy box of fixations; his short “The Viewing” is full of the ingredients that have made him a fascinating sci-fi horror storyteller, even with “Mandy” and “Beyond the Black Rainbow” to his name. Starring Charlyne Yi, Eric Andre, and Peter Weller, the short dabbles in the same austere, atmospheric storytelling of Cosmatos’ previous work, focusing on strange exchanges accompanied by a rich synthesizer score (courtesy here of Daniel Lopatin). The short’s haziness can make it drag, but it’s long into its duration before one wonders just what the hell is actually going to happen. Plus, Cosmatos creates a hypnotic effect by shooting on film, garnering soft yellow light and heavy shadows on Weller’s face, while making for a respite from numbing digital crispness that other “Cabinet of Curiosities” installments can suffer from. 

The last installment, at least for this “season” of “Cabinet of Curiosities,” depicts a married couple who share a love for studying dunlin birds, but have grown apart after a tragedy they can’t talk about. That emotional burden is a large part of the slow burn in “The Murmuring” which director Jennifer Kent actualizes as a gothic story with saturated costumes and peaceful wide shots of the two studying the mysterious group actions of birds. Based on a short story by Del Toro (with Kent adapting the teleplay), the short goes for the heart with its scenes of a tense marriage, which are more striking than the horror beats and bumps in the night that Kent eventually relies on.

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