Ana Lily Amirpour Knew Comedy Was Key For Her Episode Of Cabinet Of Curiosities

Guillermo del Toro's "Cabinet of Curiosities" ties together terrifying stories of varying flavors. While some deal with cursed paintings and artifacts, others delve into more grounded sources of horror, such as grief and societal pressure. Ana Lily Amirpour's "The Outside" explores the relationship between the real and the perceived self, and how an obsession with societal standards of beauty can ruin lives. Amirpour's story draws elements from satirical horror with its sentient beauty products and gloopy mirrored selves, but this cautionary tale is rooted in playful dark comedy, which is why it works.

In an interview with ComicBook, Amirpour explained that she was "definitely" inspired by the tone of over-the-top satires that deal with agonized protagonists, and she aimed at balancing the darker elements with comedy that suited the narrative. Amirpour said:

"I was definitely huffing on movies like Death Becomes Her and American Psycho, which are these really amplified, madhouse satires ... I think there's a fun in getting told that message where you're really with these people that are basically torturing themselves in a way. How do you go on that ride and have it be fun? ... For me, telling this story in a way that there's a little bit of playfulness, because life can be agony, but it's always a dark comedy at the same time, for me."

"The Outside" definitely deals with serious issues concerning accepted (and problematic) beauty standards that usher in a whirlwind of insecurities and a need to be socially validated. Instead of telling a self-important, tonally flat story, Amirpour sprinkles aspects of exaggerated satire to heighten the horror of the situation Stacey (Kate Micucci) finds herself in.

Dark humor makes The Outside more terrifying

Amirpour's unconventional vampire love story, "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," expertly defies genre expectations while weaving a gripping story about an undead antihero. While "The Outside" differs in style and treatment, there is a gorgeous, moody quality about the episode that definitely points to Amirpour's ability to tackle any subject with her signature nuance.

Stacey is positioned as a deeply insecure person from the get-go, but the audience immediately understands that there's no reason for her to feel this way. Even the tense, darkly-comedic secret Santa sequence is meant to poke fun at Stacey's vapid colleagues, and not her. However, Stacey ends up feeling embarrassed due to peer pressure and her own insecurities and ends up slapping more Alo Glo on her increasingly agitated skin. While it is painful to watch Stacey undergo immense pain for an ideal that betrays what she stands for, the outrageously satirical handling of the character makes her eventual fate even more unsettling.

Amirpour also explained in the Comic Book interview that she had considerable freedom when it came to directing her episode, as changes that were introduced whilst filming were organic and helped hone her vision. In fact, the only suggestion she got was from del Toro himself, who had encouraged Amirpour to "push farther" as much as she wanted to. Amirpour's commitment to introducing dark humor to grim scenes has molded "The Outside" into something infinitely more than a cautionary tale, as it also exemplifies a self-induced tragic arc for a woman who ends up being her own worst enemy. 

"Cabinet of Curiosities" is currently streaming on Netflix.