If you’re half as excited as I am for Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities anthology series on Netflix, you’re probably cultivating a watch list in anticipation of its October 25 debut. If you haven’t yet seen the trailer, you can do that here. If you have seen it, you might have done what I did, which was pause at every director’s name that came onscreen during the video. You might have noticed we are really in for a trick or treat. Here are a few films I recommend watching in preparation for Cabinet of Curiosities:
If you’re a Del Toro fan, you’ve likely already seen Pan’s Labyrinth, but if you haven’t, let me give you the hard sell real quick: it’s a fairy tale set during the Spanish Civil War in which a little girl has to reckon with both the supernatural and the hard facts of living in the villa of her militaristic stepfather. It’s full of folklore and beautiful to watch, though much darker in content than “fairy tale” typically implies. The cinematographer of Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Navarro, is directing an episode of Cabinet of Curiosities, as well. It’s entitled “Lot 36,” and the episode will star Tim Blake Nelson, whom I adore.
Jennifer Kent is the director of the first episode of the anthology series. The film that put her on the map was The Babadook, which Netflix mistakenly categorized as LGBTQ+, which led to a hilarious appropriation of the Babadook himself as a Pride mascot shortly after its release. (This is just some fun lore around the film for fun… since Guillermo Del Toro does love his lore.) The Babadook’s plot centers around a single mother who’s coping with the eccentricities that her son develops after reading a cursed book, a book she can’t get out of their house because it keeps returning.
If you’ve already seen The Babadook, you can substitute this recommendation with another of Jennifer Kent’s feature films, The Nightingale, set during the colonization of Australia. To me, this film is even more disturbing than the first.
You might remember when Mandy blew up a couple of years ago: it stars Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough, and it is action-packed with horror. I mean that literally: we have cults, supernatural forces, and a ton of action sequences. I’m looking forward to his episode, “The Viewing,” not only because I’m sure it will be outrageous, but also because I would watch Sofia Boutella in nearly anything.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Speaking of incredible women with Middle Eastern lineage—the episode of Cabinet of Curiosities directed by Analily Amirpour, “The Outside,” is the one I’m most excited for because I am obsessed with her film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It’s a vampire western set in Bad City, a fictional place in Iran. The Girl (Sheila Vand) is a sort of anti-heroine who stalks bad men and makes them her victims. It’s awesome.Bonus watch: Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon directed by Analily Amirpour is debuting at the Venice film festival in early September, and it’s scheduled to release wide on September 30! I cannot wait.
Oh! A bonus reading recommendation: the stories of Emily Carroll. “The Outside” is adapted from one of her short works, and because I assume Analily Amirpour has impeccable taste, the source material must be awesome, too, right?
The Empty Man
David Prior has directed documentaries of David Fincher’s films for a long time before writing and directing his own feature film, a supernatural horror called The Empty Man. It’s based on the graphic novel series of the same name by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey, so I’ll likely check that out, too.
The film follows a former policeman who investigates a girl’s disappearance and discovers a cult.
The episode of Cabinet of Curiosities that he directed is called, “The Autopsy,” and it’s based on a short story by Michael Shea. (More self-assigned reading, et al.)
This science fiction horror film follows two young scientists who genetically engineer human DNA into animal genes.
The director, Natali, will also direct an episode of Curiosities called “Graveyard Rats” which was adapted from a short story by Henry Kuttner—which was originally published in Weird Tales magazine in 1936. Pretty cool. I have to check that one out, too.
Crime Fiction Books To Read
The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years to bring one thousand sleeping souls to a new home among the stars. But when first mate Michelle Campion rouses, she discovers some of the sleepers will never wake.
Answering Campion’s distress call, investigator Rasheed Fin is tasked with finding out who is responsible for these deaths. Soon a sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel, one that will have repercussions for the entire system—from the scheming politicians of Lagos station, to the colony planet Bloodroot, to other far-flung systems, and indeed to Earth itself.
In the future you can have any body you want—as long as you can afford it.
But in a New York ravaged by climate change and repeat pandemics, Kobo is barely scraping by. He scouts the latest in gene-edited talent for Big Pharma-owned baseball teams, but his own cybernetics are a decade out of date and twin sister loan sharks are banging down his door. Things couldn't get much worse.
Then his brother—Monsanto Mets slugger J.J. Zunz—is murdered at home plate.
Determined to find the killer, Kobo plunges into a world of genetically modified CEOs, philosophical Neanderthals, and back-alley body modification, only to quickly find he's in a game far bigger and more corrupt than he imagined. To keep himself together while the world is falling apart, he'll have to navigate a time where both body and soul are sold to the highest bidder.
What to Read Next
Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.