What You Need To Watch (And Read) Before Guillermo Del Toro's Cabinet Of Curiosities

Like most hardcore horror fans, Guillermo del Toro loves a good anthology series. From "The Twilight Zone" to "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark," which del Toro produced, the notion of getting a completely different tale of terror each week is too tantalizing to resist. So genre fans should be giddily anticipating the October 25, 2022, Netflix premiere of "Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities," which boasts eight episodes of spine-tingling fright from some of the most talented horror directors working today.

In the newly released teaser, del Toro promises, "Each of the episodes has a whole world." Though he is presenting the series, he has given all eight directors free rein to tell their stories on their own creative terms. Perhaps the most exciting element of the series is its focus on the construction of "beautiful, practical creatures." In an industry where CG dominates, it's an absolute joy to hear that we'll be getting to see new, tactile monsters who might haunt our nightmares for years to come.

As we await whatever unnerving delights del Toro and his team of filmmakers intend to inflict on us, let's take a look at the creative teams (and their inspirations) behind each episode, and whip up a list of viewing and reading material that might prepare us for these strange visions.

Dreams in the Witch House

First up is Catherine Hardwicke's adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's short story about a young Miskatonic student who unwisely rents an attic room in Arkham, Massachusett's cursed "Witch House." Written by "Origin" creator Mika Watkins, and featuring the eclectic likes of Rupert Grint, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Nia Vardalos, Tenika Davis, and DJ freakin' Qualls, this ultra-creepy yarn serves as a nifty introduction to Lovecraft's eldritch strain of otherworldly horror. It's all about how you visualize incomprehensibly grotesque monsters that drive people mad.

To get a sense of the challenge before Hardwicke, you should absolutely read the story, and, provided that hooks you (which it will), check out "Curse of the Crimson Altar," a loose 1968 film adaptation starring Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff. After that, you've got Stuart Gordon's 2005 "Masters of Horror" episode, which doesn't approach the gruesome Lovecraftian heights of the director's "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond," but is still well worth your time.

Graveyard Rats

You're probably going to require a strong stomach for this repulsive tale of a grave robber (David Hewlett) who declares war on a colony of mutant rats that are feasting on newly buried corpses before he can harvest them. It's incredibly gnarly stuff. Vincenzo Natali wrote and directed this episode, which is based on a short story by early 20th-century horror maestro Henry Kuttner. Obviously, you should read Kuttner's story, but if you're looking for a fiercely underrated man vs. rat movie, you can do no better than George Pan Cosmatos' "Of Unknown Origin" starring the great Peter Weller.

Lot 36

All we know about this installment is that it's directed by del Toro's longtime cinematographer, Guillermo Navarro, written by Regina Corrado (best known for her work on "Deadwood" and "The Strain") and features a dynamite cast headlined by the great Tim Blake Nelson. The title seems to allude to a piece of auctioned property, which could be anything from an ancient relic to a collection of old Time magazines. I'm going to guess del Toro is a tad more interested in the former, which means this is an excellent excuse to fire up Peter Hyams's goofily gory monster flick "The Relic," wherein a mythical South American beast goes on a murderous rampage in a Chicago museum.

Pickman's Model

"The Vigil" and "Firestarter" director Keith Thomas takes on one of Lovecraft's most chilling stories, and he's cast Crispin Glover as the deeply disturbed artist of the title. Written by Lee Patterson, this is the second live-action take on the tale of a painter whose work, while brilliant, grows ever more hideous as his career wears on. The first version aired on Rod Serling's "Night Gallery" in 1972, and starred Bradford Dillman in a decidedly toned-down take on the stark-raving-mad character. Sadly, that episode, and "Night Gallery" in general, is unavailable to stream at the moment, but you can certainly track down Lovecraft's story. For a film about an artist driven to murderous extremes by his work, Roger Corman's darkly funny "A Bucket of Blood" starring Dick Miller is as good and nasty as it gets.

The Autopsy

Michael Shea's "The Autopsy" is one of the best horror short stories to never go before cameras, so it is, tentatively, cause for celebration that "The Empty Man" director David Prior is giving the underrated writer his due with an adaptation written by David S. Goyer and starring the formidable duo of F. Murray Abraham and Glynn Turman. If you've never read "The Autopsy," wait until it's dark out, put on a pot of coffee, and dive in. Why coffee at such a late hour? You won't be sleeping once you've finished this taut work of terror. While you're awake, throw on James L. Conway's preposterously entertaining "The Boogens," which features a different kind of mine-borne monster.

The Murmuring

Writer-director Jennifer Kent reteaming with her "The Babadook" star Essie Davis? That's all anyone should need to be hyped for this installment, which is based on a story by del Toro. Precious little has been disclosed about "The Murmuring," so what you need to do in the meantime is catch up with Kent's 2018 triumph, "The Nightingale," wherein a young Australian widow seeks revenge for the murder of her husband and infant. It's a startling departure from "The Babadook," but every bit as rewarding. Kent is a top-tier filmmaker and deserves moviegoers' fervent support for fearlessly taking on such emotionally bruising material. I can't wait to see what she's done with whatever the heck this is.

The Outside

"A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour teams with "Brand New Cherry Flavor" writer Hannah Z. Boston for this episode based on a short story by Eisner-winning comic book author Emily Caroll. Garfunkel and Oates' Kate Micucci and "Silicon Valley" star Martin Starr head up this mysterious entry. If you want to get a taste for Carroll's fiendishly fractured fairy tales, snap up her graphic novel compilation "Through the Woods." You've probably seen "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," but you might've skipped her bizarro, cannibal-romance follow-up "The Bad Batch" starring Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, and Jim Carrey. Amirpour possesses a bracingly original voice that defies categorization. Given the stark contrast between her first two movies, it's impossible to predict what she'll do with her installment.

The Viewing

Panos Cosmatos has made two features over his, thus far, 12-year career, and they are acid-soaked nightmares that you can never, ever shake. "Beyond the Black Rainbow" is a surreal odyssey that prioritizes its trippy aesthetic over narrative coherence. "Mandy" is a heavy-metal revenge epic that equips a grief-stricken Nicolas Cage with the most righteously ridiculous battle axe ever glimpsed in cinema. Cosmatos has reteamed with his "Mandy" co-writer Aaron Stewart-Ahn for an original vision starring Peter Weller, Eric André, Sofia Boutella, and Charlene Yi. This reeks of unpredictability, which means you need to get with the psychedelic unpredictability of "Beyond the Black Rainbow" and crack open a heavily used copy of William S. Burrough's "Naked Lunch" previously owned by a person of unsound mind.