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Guillermo Del Toro’s “Cabinet of Curiosities,” “Pinocchio” (2022), and “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” (2019)
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 205 (Regular and Bonus)
It’s Del Toro week!
This time, we’ll watch some TV. The new Netflix series, “Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” has been out for a little while now, and we decided to watch all eight episodes. Like all anthologies, it has high points and low, so we’ll talk about those. Overall, we really liked the series and hope they make more soon.
For our bonus films this week, we went on a journey with the new stop-motion “Pinocchio” from 2022 and the fun “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” from 2019.
New Book: The Horror Films of Roger Corman
We do the usual “Horror Guys Treatment” for all the horror films directed by Roger Corman from 1954 up to 1990. Included are 29 full-length films that truly count as horror. In addition, we’ll look at seven other noteworthy Corman movies that aren’t horror, including his first producing credit, his first directing credit, his favorite non-horror project, and a few others. If you love Roger Corman’s macabre masterpieces, we’ll cover all of them here.
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Check out all our books!
The Horror Guys Guide to:
• Tales to Make You Shiver, Volumes 1 and 2
Here. We. Go!
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)
• Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
• Written by Guillermo Del Toro, Patrick McHale
• Stars Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Christoph Waltz
• Run Time: 2 Hours, 1 Minute
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Two Pinocchio movies are releasing this month; this isn’t the one from Disney with Tom Hanks in it. This is the creepy stop-motion version from Guillermo Del Toro. It’s a little grim and dark, what you’d expect from Del Toro, but there are many uplifting moments as well. There are some horror elements, and it’s probably not a good one for little kids.
Geppetto lost his son many years ago during the Great War; he was only ten years old. We get a flashback to Geppetto and Carlo. They were very close, and Geppetto sings a song to his son. Carlo finds the perfect pine cone, and wants to plant a tree. When they hear planes flying over, they head home. Carlo runs back into the church for the pine cone, the church is bombed from the air, and Carlo burns to death inside.
Geppetto plants the pine cone next to Carlo’s grave later. Years passed, and Geppetto got old. At some point, a cricket moves into the tree that had grown from the pine cone. He overhears sad old Geppetto crying outside. Geppetto gets drunk and cuts down the pine tree, with Sebastian the cricket inside. He carves a wooden boy out of the wood. He passes out with the doll assembled but crudely done and not really finished.
A creepy blue woman floats into the room and does magic over the doll. She talks to the cricket and assigns him to advise the new little wooden boy. If the boy is good, she will give the cricket one wish.
The next morning, Geppetto wakes up with a hangover, and seeing an animated wooden thing in his attic doesn’t help his foggy state. Pinocchio introduces himself and says he’s Geppetto’s son. Pinocchio sings a song about how everything is new to him. Geppetto is terrified of the thing at first but soon warms to the idea.
Pinocchio wants to go to church with his father, but Geppetto says that’s a bad idea. The cricket says so too, but Pinocchio doesn’t listen. The people in church see him. and think he’s a demon or something. When Pinocchio lies, his nose grows. The priest throws them both out.
That evening, the priest and Podesta come over to ensure the puppet isn’t a threat. They want to make sure that Pinocchio will not be an immoral influence on the community. Podesta and his son are fascists and want Pinocchio to start attending school. That night, Sebastian Cricket tells Pinocchio about Carlo.
A marionette show comes to town, and Pinocchio is intrigued. An evil-looking monkey sees Pinocchio and tells Count Volpe, the man who runs the carnival, about what he saw. “We were kings once,” goes the next song.
Volpe offers Pinocchio the chance to be a star in his show, but Sebastian reminds him about his promise to go to school. Volpe is pretty convincing, and Pinocchio is gullible. He signs a contract. Before long, he’s on stage singing and dancing for a crowd.
Podesta comes to Geppetto and says he didn’t show up for school; “He’s quite a dissident, your boy.” Geppetto goes off looking for Pinocchio that evening and finds the cricket, who tells him where to look. Pinocchio tells what happened that morning, and it’s really obvious that he’s lying. As Volpe and Geppetto fight over Pinocchio, Pinocchio is killed by a passing car.
In the land of the dead, there’s a sort of creepy funeral for Pinocchio given by dead rabbit-zombies who play poker. Pinocchio goes through the doorway and talks to Death. She complains about her sister doing her magic without following the rules. Because of what her sister did, he’ll never really die, but that he cannot be a normal boy either. Each time he dies, he’ll have to stay with her a little longer with the time controlled by an hourglass.
When Pinocchio sits up in the coroner’s office. Volpe wants him for his show. Podesta wants to draft him into the army as an immortal soldier. Geppetto calls Pinocchio a burden. That night, Pinocchio runs away to go work for the carnival and send Geppetto money.
In the morning, Sebastian tells off Geppetto for the mean things he said last night. Geppetto packs a bag and goes off looking for the carnival.
War comes to Italy, and Podesta’s son trains to fight with the fascists for Mussolini. Back at the carnival, Pinocchio sings propaganda songs to his audience. Mussolini himself is coming to the show tomorrow.
Geppetto tries to hire a boat to get to the next town, but the sea captain says there are monsters out there. The sea is full of mines, and the captain jumps over boats. The boat, Geppetto, and Sebastian are all swallowed by a sea monster.
Pinocchio figures out that Volpe isn’t sending any money home to Geppetto, but Volpe shows his true colors. Mussolini shows up, and Pinocchio gives him a show he won’t soon forget; he compares him to a sack of poop in his song. He orders, “Shoot him and burn it all down!”
Pinocchio wakes up in the land of the dead again. Death warns that he may not see his father again. Pinocchio will be immortal, but none of his friends or loved ones will be…
Pinocchio wakes up in Podesta’s truck. Podesta wants Pinocchio to be the perfect soldier. Pinocchio helps Candlewick, Podesta’s son, when he feels bad about being a coward. The next day, there’s a war-training game, and they figure out a way to both win. Podesta is not pleased and orders Candlewick to “Shoot the puppet.”
Suddenly, there’s an air raid. Candlewick and Podesta argue as the whole place blows up. Volpe comes out of nowhere and captures Pinocchio. Volpe tries to set him on fire, but Volpe’s abused pet monkey, Spazzatura, turns on him. They all fall off a cliff into the ocean.
Adrift, Pinocchio and Spazzatura get swallowed by a creature. Of course, it’s the same one that swallowed Geppetto. Everyone is soon reunited. They figure out that they can escape by having Pinocchio lie over and over; they climb his nose to get out of the monster via the blowhole.
Just as the beast is about to swallow them all again, it sets off a mine and explodes.
Dead again, Pinocchio wants to go back in a hurry to save Geppetto’s life, but he has to wait longer than before. Death says that he can go back now, but if he does early, he’ll become mortal. She won’t break the rules, she hints as she taps his hourglass, but he can. He decides to go back now and smashes it.
Geppetto’s drowning, but Pinocchio grabs him and pulls him up. Everyone makes it safe to shore except Pinocchio, who has died. The Blue Fairy returns and talks to Geppetto. “To save you, he became a real boy, and real boys don’t come back,” she says. Sebastian says he deserves his promised wish and wishes for Pinocchio to return. She grants the wish.
Geppetto and Pinocchio embrace; Spazzatura and Sebastian watch in happiness. Time passes. Geppetto ages as does the cricket and the monkey; Pinocchio doesn’t. Eventually, all three of them pass away.
Then the puppet boy goes off into the world. Will Pinocchio ever die? Maybe.
Some of the creature design and imagery is reminiscent of “Pan’s Labyrinth(https://www.horrorbulletin.com/p/bonus-reviews-king-kong-1933-and).” It’s the basic story, but it’s got torture, murder, abuse, death, sea monsters, and fascists. It’s not horror, but it’s got many of the same elements, and if you let little kids watch this, they’re sure to have nightmares.
It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it’s terrific as it is.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
• Directed by André Øvredal
• Written by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Guillermo del Toro
• Stars Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rusg
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 48 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This had the vibe of being geared toward young people, but we adults were entertained. The stories are a little predictable while still being entertaining. The young cast was all good, and the creature effects were pretty terrific.
It’s 1968, in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania. Some teens are eagerly signing up for Vietnam. Stella and her father watch the news, and he looks concerned. Some of Stella’s friends are going out trick-or-treating for the last time. Tommy and some other boys beat up a scarecrow in the cornfield. Stella, Chuck, and Auggie play a prank on Tommy and have to make a run for it. They all climb into a random car at the drive-in; Ramon is the driver. The movie is “Night of the Living Dead.”
Afterward, Stella asks Ramon if he wants to see a real haunted house. Some kid went missing here a few years back, so the big old house has been boarded up while it waits for demolishment. It belonged to the Bellows, an influential family back in the day. The family that used to live there disowned their own daughter, whom no one ever saw. Sarah Bellows used to tell scary stories before she hung herself. “If you come to the Bellows's house in the dark and ask Sarah to tell you a story, it’ll be the last story you ever hear.”
They find a secret door with a locked room behind it. Inside is Sarah’s room. Stella finds Sarah’s book of scary stories. Tommy shows up and pushes Chuck’s sister Ruth, who was there on a date with Tommy, into the room with them and locks the door. Stella says the magic words, “Tell me a story.” The door opens.
They find Ramon’s car trashed. He was living in that car, so Stella offers to let him stay in her basement for tonight. We see that she brought Sarah’s book home with her. The last story in the book is called “Harold,” and the ink is still wet.
Tommy returns home to the farm, and his mother comes out nagging about him being drunk. She orders him to go collect the eggs. The scarecrow’s name is Harold, and Tommy has abused it for years. He runs into Harold in the cornfield, and this time, Harold comes after him. Harold stabs Tommy with a pitchfork, and soon Tommy starts coughing up hay.
The next morning, Chief Turner talks to Ramon about Tommy and the vandalized car, and we see clearly that the Chief is pretty racist. Stella and Ramon go out into Tommy’s cornfield and find the scarecrow wearing Tommy’s jacket— just like the story she read in her book. Tommy is the new Harold. Later, Stella returns the book to the room in the old house. Even later, Ramon finds the book back on Stella’s book shelf. There’s a new story, “The Big Toe,” and they both see it writing itself…
Elsewhere, Auggie is heating stew on the stove at home. They warn him about the story, which is about a corpse looking for a missing toe. We see a toe and an eyeball floating in his stew. Stella relays it all to Auggie on the walks-talkie, and it all starts happening to him as she says it. The toe-zombie drags him under the bed, and he’s soon gone completely.
Stella blames herself for everything. She thinks she woke something up, and now it’s coming for all of them that were in the house. Chuck suggests burning the book, so they try that— it doesn’t burn. They all go to the library and research Sarah Bellows.
A new story begins, this time called “The Red Spot.” Chuck has a red spot on his shirt— no, it’s about his sister Ruthie. Back at school, Ruthie has a spider bite on her face, and it’s turning red. Suddenly, a zillion spiders burst out of her face.
The next day, Stella, Chuck, and Ramon investigate Lou Lou, an old woman who used to know Sarah. She sends them to check out a mental hospital; she says that’s where Sarah killed herself, not at the old house. Her own family had her committed, and they tortured her there at the hospital. They find an old audio recording of Sarah getting electroshock “therapy.” She accuses her family of using mercury from the mill to poison the town’s water. Sarah starts to tell a story about Chuck…
Chuck, meanwhile, is running from the guards in the hospital upstairs. The lights all turn red as the alarm sounds. Chuck sees Sarah coming for him, and she’s really something. She’s really slow, but he can’t get away. She absorbs him.
The police pick up Ramon and Stella, and they accuse Ramon of being a draft dodger. They don’t believe their story about the book; they can’t find any bodies. The Chief reads some of the stories and thinks Stella wrote them. Suddenly, the lights go out. Ramon knows that the next story is about the Jangly Man, one that used to scare him when he was little. A head comes down the chimney, and the Chief shoots it. Then the rest of the pieces come down the chimney. The pieces reassemble and kill the Chief. They barely escape the jail in time, but the Jangly Man is following.
Ramon tells Stella to go back to the haunted house and tell Sarah the secret, which he thinks will stop everything. Stella yells that she knows Sarah didn’t poison anyone and that she needs to stop telling the stories. She finds herself back in time when the house was new and occupied. Meanwhile, Ramon runs from the Jangly Man. Stella has become Sarah, and the family is chasing her.
The family catches Stella/Sarah and locks her in the cell in the basement, threatening the asylum the next time she gets out. Stella confronts Sarah about her rage, telling her she’s becoming a monster herself by harming innocent people. Sarah gives Stella her pen, “Use your blood,” she instructs. Stella starts writing her own story. Upstairs, the Jangly Man falls to pieces, and Ramon is fine.
Stella eventually becomes a famous writer of “Scary Stories.” Ramon goes off to Vietnam with a love letter from Stella and a promise that she’ll wait for him.
The creature effects here are detailed and really good. I’m not familiar with the book series these stories are based on, but they all seem pretty predictable and generic.
Overall, it’s not a children’s movie, but I can see it appealing to younger horror fans who have read the books. I wasn’t blown away by the stories, but I wasn’t bored either. The acting was all mostly fine from the young people, and it had Dean Norris as Stella’s father, a character who did literally nothing but be in a few scenes. What was up with that?
Short Film: The Satan (2022)
• Directed by Alexander Henderson
• Written by Alexander Henderson
• Stars Jennifer Buckley, Duane Cooper, Dara Emery
• Run Time: 11:21
• Watch it:
A woman states, “The afterlife’s not what people make it out to be. I am becoming death.” A man stomps around an empty parking garage. Another man sits in his room and cries. The strange woman visits the crying man, and we soon see what’s going on.
Who’s the monster here?
The altered Voiceover, in the beginning, convinced me I was going to hate this, as I barely understood what was being said. That quickly cleared up, and the weird “story” got underway.
It’s very atmospheric, and the music is creepy and just adds to the mood. It’s both a dream and a nightmare combined, so the story isn’t super clear or linear, but it’s weird and creepy, and that’s enough here.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (2022): Episodes 1 and 2
• Run Time: Around 50 Minutes per episode
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone of the series as a whole
Each episode of this anthology begins with Del Toro coming out of the darkness and opening some drawer, door, or slidy-thing on a big cabinet prop. He pulls out some individual trinket and talks about some overall theme. He then places the object and a figure of the director on a table, and the story starts. None of the stories are interconnected, so you can watch or skip any of them with impunity.
Guillermo Del Toro is quite a mumbler, and I found him a little hard to follow, but fortunately, none of his bits really impact what happens in the stories— he’s trying to be a modern-day Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock.
Overall, the stories themselves are excellent. Each one has one or two very recognizable stars, and the special effects and stories are really good. We both thought the final two episodes were pretty weak, but the ones getting to that point were a lot of fun.
Episode 1: Lot 36
• Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
• Written by Regina Corrado, Guillermo Del Toro
• Stars Tim Blake Nelson, Sebastian Roche
An old man watches the President talk about invading Iraq. He seems to eat a lot of TV dinners. After dinner, he goes into the kitchen to cut the head off an opossum and has a heart attack. We see that his keychain has “36” stamped on it.
Nick Appleton listens to country music and right-wing talk radio. He goes to one of those auctions for unpaid storage lockers. Lot 36 is first on the block. Nick wins for $4oo. He’s got some scam going with Eddie, the guy who runs the storage place. Eddie plays a tape showing the dead man coming to his storage locker. He has been coming every single day for years— since 1945. He’d bring a bag full of something every day and leave with an empty one.
Emilia comes in upset that Eddie has auctioned off her unit. It was his mistake, but it's out of his hands now. She had unit 87, and Nick bought it too. Nick is not sympathetic about the woman’s photos and pictures being lost. He’s a jerk and racist, too, so she yells a curse at him.
Nick goes to unit 36 and starts emptying the stuff. There’s a photo album that shows the former owner in WWII. We he a nazi? On the way to his truck, a man hits him and his vehicle with a hammer. Nick owes money to some very bad people. Ms. Emilia watches the whole thing.
Nick takes a few of the pieces from Lot 36 to an appraiser. There’s a seance table, and she opens a drawer with three books written in Latin. There’s also a wall hanging made from human hair and a gold candlestick. She calls in Roland, an expert on occult antiques. He says the table is used to “summon an entity.” He suggests that there may be a fourth volume somewhere and that one is worth much, much more.
On the way to the storage unit, Roland says that he knows all about the old man’s family. He was a nazi. The unit’s owner was a sick, sick man with bottomless appetites. He offered up his sister for the entity to take. They never found her.
Roland and Nick find a secret compartment in the back of the locker. Roland gives some rules to follow if they find the demon. They do find the old man’s sister, with the demon living inside. Nick sees the book and crosses the pentagram, breaking the line, which frees the demon. A bunch of tentacles rises up out of the dead body on the floor, and they eat Roland.
The tentacle thing chases Nick through the halls of the storage facility. He gets locked in, and only Emilia can let him out. She smiles and padlocks the door. He doesn’t get out.
This is really good. The main characters are interesting, although not particularly likable. The stuff inside the storage locker is cool even without the supernatural element.
The way Roland talks about the candlestick hints that it was probably made from the gold teeth of concentration camp victims. The creature’s effects are really good— that thing is nightmare fuel.
Episode 2: Graveyard Rats
• Directed by Vincenzo Natali
• Written by Henry Kuttner, Guillermo Del Toro
• Stars David Hewitt, Alexander Eling
A couple of grave robbers open up a grave and admire her jewelry. When they’re done, a man named Masson pulls a gun on them, claiming to be the caretaker. Once those two are gone, Masson climbs into the grave and pulls out one of the dead woman’s gold teeth. He drops the tooth and gets bitten by a rat.
Masson owes a loan shark and often comes up short on his payment. He blames rats for digging under the graves and stealing the bodies through tunnels. “God only knows what’s breeding down there,” he complains. The loan shark gives him a week, or he’ll be the one in the cemetery.
Masson goes to Dooley, the coroner, and checks if any rich people have died. He bribes Dooley to let him look for gold fillings. Dooley says to wait until tomorrow for the rich shipping magnate, but Masson says that’ll be too late; the rats will get him by then. They overheard the man’s widow talking about burying him with a priceless saber. Maybe he can wait…
We see that Masson is both terrified and obsessed with rats. The next day the funeral proceeds, and later that night, it’s time to dig the shipping magnate up. He opens the coffin and watches the body being dragged into a tunnel. No, no, no, he needs the money, so he has no choice but to follow.
Masson soon discovers that there are a lot of tunnels down there, just big enough to crawl through— and he has claustrophobia. He’s swarmed by rats, so he fires his gun— right through his own foot.
Then he runs into a rat bigger than he is; it’s the Queen Rat. He shoots it and crawls away, dropping his gun in the process. Masson falls into a deep pit filled with human bones. There are also lots of trinkets and gold teeth, so it’s not all bad! He also finds the old man’s sword. He looks around some more and finds that he’s in a “black church” where evil rituals have taken place.
There’s a mummified body there wearing a fabulously expensive-looking amulet. Naturally, Masson pilfers it. The mummy comes to life and bites Masson on the ear. It yells, “Mine!” Masson finds a shaft leading up and starts to climb.
He soon finds himself between the Queen rat and the mummy with nothing but a sword. There’s a convenient cave-in that smashes the rat and traps the mummy. There’s another upward shaft with a light above him, and he starts to climb. When he reaches the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s not what he thinks it is…
David Hewlett is perfect here. He’s both evil and a whiny coward at the same time. The Queen rat isn’t as convincing as it could have been, but it gets the point across. If you hate rats and tunnels, this is the story for you!
Episode 3: The Autopsy
• Directed by David Prior
• Written by David S. Goyer, Michael Shea, Guillermo Del Toro
• Stars F. Murray Abraham, Glynn Turman, Luke Roberts
Some men work in the coal mine. A man no one recognizes comes down the elevator and throws out a device that explodes.
We cut to shots of the town, with signs up for many missing persons and some grave markers for people who died in the mine. Dr. Carl Winters gets off the bus; he doesn’t look healthy. He stops in at the sheriff’s station, and he’s old friends with Sheriff Nate. Winters wants to know what’s going on; nine men are dead, and he’s here to do an autopsy to find out what happened.
Nate warns Carl that he’ll never get to the bottom of this story. Two months ago, a man went missing. Then another. Six people in a month disappeared. Eventually, they found one decomposed, butchered, bloodless body. Nate assigned two hunters to keep an eye on the body, which looked to be a cache for later feeding. Later, the hunters both disappeared as well.
We get a flashback to Abel, the first victim, running into a guy he thinks he knows. The man says he’s Joe Allen, not the man the first victim thought. Joe hypnotizes Abel to make an excuse to leave with him. Nate says that Joe was really Sykes, a man who went missing nine months ago after going into the woods to watch a meteor shower.
Nate and a deputy checked out Joe/Sykes’s room at the boarding house. There’s a strange round, organic thing with hairs on it. It makes a strange purring sound, and the landlady tells them that Joe said he found it in the woods after the meteor storm. Joe then breaks into the police car, grabs the alien ball-thing and runs down into the mine, where the thing explodes, as we saw. BOOM!
Back in the present, Nate and Carl go for a drive. Carl admits that he has terminal stomach cancer. They go to a refrigeration facility where all the bodies from the mine are stored. Nate gets to work doing his autopsies alone.
The first victim, Miller, has all the signs of being buried alive. “Run. Get out now!” He hears from nowhere. He starts on Jackson, the next victim; he has a strange wound, and his insides are shriveled and drained of blood. The third victim, Brady, has a similar wound, also without blood.
Suddenly, the power goes out. Carl starts getting creeped out by the bodies, even though he’s done this hundreds of times. Carl watches as Joe Allen gets up off the gurney and starts coming for him. “Help me. Starving. I am a traveler. My true form is small and hideous to you,” he says. He wanted to destroy his ship; he says they must not be understood. Livestock must not understand what devours it.
The alien wants to take over Carl’s body since the doctor gets bodies delivered to him all the time— food without hunting! The alien will transfer himself from Joe to Carl. Carl says that their kind are nothing but parasites.
Joe cuts himself open as if he were doing an autopsy on himself. He pulls out the little squid-like alien inside him. As the little alien pulls out of Joe, Joe dies. Carl grabs the scalpel from Joe’s cold, dead hand and writes a message on himself in blood before stabbing himself in the ears and eyes. The alien has no senses of his own, and this way, the alien will be blind and deaf. Carl also cuts his own throat— just a little. Enough to be slowly fatal.
We watch the alien take over Carl and merge with his synapses. Carl and the alien talk; Carl mentions that the voice recorder caught Joe’s whole confession.
Morning comes, Nate arrives. He finds Carl’s body with “Play Tape. Burn Me.” written in blood.
The gore and autopsy scenes here are very realistic. We see pretty early on that the “bomb” is some kind of alien organic thing. Where it goes from there is more unpredictable. The alien’s explanation and speechifying are really good as well. These aliens are not nice people!
It’s great how old Carl outsmarted the “genius” alien invader.
Episode 4: The Outside
• Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
• Written by Haley Z. Boston, Emily Carroll, Guillermo Del Toro
• Stars Kate Micucci, Martin Starr, Dan Stevens
We see that it’s Christmas in the suburbs. Stacey watches TV as she eats microwaved chicken. She hears something in the basement and goes down there with an ax. She checks out the whole house, but there’s no one there. She calls Officer Keith at the police station; this seems to be a regular occurrence, and he knows her well. We soon see that he’s her husband.
The next day at the bank, we see that Stacey is just plain weird. She draws her “Secret Santa” name, and it’s Gina.
Later, Stacey shoots a duck and does the full taxidermy thing on it. Keith comes home, and he mentions that Stacey hates Gina. Why would she want to go to the Secret Santa party? Stacey is really jealous of Gina and wants to see the inside of her house, so she plans to go to the party tomorrow anyway.
She goes to the party and all the catty women from work are there. They all talk about vibrators and fillers. It’s eventually time for “not-so-secret-santa.” Stacey is surprised that it’s not really a secret. Everyone gets nice gifts from Alo Glo, a skin cream that all the women seem obsessed with. Stacey gives Gina her gift, and Gina is surprised to find a stuffed duck inside. Gina is appalled, but polite about it.
They all play with the Alo Glo cream while gushing over how wonderful it feels, but it doesn’t seem to work on Stacey. She does turn red though; it’s a rash or reaction to the Alo Glo and goes home early.
Keith says Stacey just has sensitive skin, but Stacey takes it personally. As she watches an infomercial for Alo Glo that night, the tube of cream empties itself on her living room table. The man on the screen promises— pretty much everything for users of the cream. Stacey just giggles, but then the TV starts talking to her personally. He promises her “A seat at the table.”
She complains that she got a rash, but he says she has to use the whole bottle. “It hurts when it works. The skin itches as it heals. You have a lot of healing to do, Stacey,” he says. She picks up the phone and orders more Alo Glo. Then she uses the rest of the tube.
The next morning, she gets a delivery from Alo Glo. She hides the huge box in the basement. She calls in sick to work; her rash is worse than last night. She tells Keith “It’s a process. Healing itches.” He insists there’s nothing wrong with her, but she thinks there is. She just wants him to be supportive in her coming changes. He doesn’t really understand but goes along with it.
She uses the cream. She uses a lot of the cream. That night, the TV man talks to her again. He swears the cream is doing its job; you need to let it grow, he insists. “You have to go all the way.”
She goes into the basement, and all the tubes of Alo Glo open up and start squishing out. The Alo Glo expands overnight. Something is growing in the middle of the puddle.
When Keith gets home the next day, Stacey has gotten even worse. He wants her to go see a doctor, but she insists that it’s working. “Why can’t you be excited for me? It’s fixing me!”
Stacey goes down into the basement to find a human-shaped figure standing where the Alo Glo used to be. Sort of a lotion golem. She touches it, and they kiss.
She comes upstairs with one of her taxidermy scalpels. Keith gives her a pep talk. “You’re perfect,” he says. “You’re going to stop this nonsense right now.” She stabs him in the forehead with the scalpel; it’s a gusher! Before he can bleed too much, she finishes him off with the ax.
Stacey finds the Alo Glo woman in her bathroom. The woman gets into the tub and turns into a liquid. Stacey climbs in after her and bathes in the Alo Glo. It swallows her up.
Later that night, she gets out of the tub, covered in goo. She scrapes off the residue and her skin is perfect underneath. She has nice teeth and her eyes are straight, even her shape seems to have changed. She looks radiant now and confident. What to do about dead Keith though? Time for some taxidermy! He looks so natural there in front of the TV.
She fixes herself up and dresses well now before going to work. She opens the door to the bank, and everyone stares. Everyone is amazed at her transformation. Now she fits right in. And all the other women are jealous of her.
They have doctors for when you get a rash like that. Doctors that will tell you to stop using the cream you’re allergic to. But on the other hand, this apparently was no ordinary cream.
Kate Micucci has some great makeup and prosthetic work throughout the story. The rash and peeling skin are really gross, and it even had me itching and scratching before it was done.
Episode 5: Pickman’s Model
• Directed by Keith Thomas
• Written by H. P. Lovecraft, Lee Patterson, Guillermo Del Toro
• Stars Ben Barnes, Crispín Glover, Oriana Leman
In Arkham, Massachusetts, 1909, artist Will paints Rebecca— at least until her father gets home. He’s an art student at Miskatonic University. There’s a new student in class, Richard Pickman, and he draws… angrily. There are soon rumors about Pickman’s past.
William goes to the cemetery and catches Richard out there drawing a dead cat. He draws monsters in his notebook. There’s a big art contest, and Will won last year. Richard’s submission offends the judges so badly they all walk out.
Richard invites Will to his place to see his work, and Will thinks they’re disturbing. He’s fascinated by their horror. Will is so disturbed that he has to go outside and vomit. The nightmares follow that night.
The next day, Will goes to a big garden party thrown by Rebecca’s father. He starts seeing creepy things skulking around the nearby trees and making a scene. He thinks the paintings last night have done something to his mind; Rebecca thinks he’s drunk and tells him to get lost. He goes to see Richard but finds his apartment is empty.
In 1926, Will is now married with a family. One night, he dreams he’s at a dinner party. It’s the party from Richard’s painting all those years ago. A painting was delivered that afternoon, and it’s another terrifying painting when he cuts open the wrapping. He almost kills himself with a knife just from looking at it. Will’s son James sneaks in and looks at the painting. He starts having nightmares.
Joe brings in Richard Pickman to do an exhibit for their show, and Will is shocked at seeing him again. The whole committee goes in to look at Richard’s paintings. On the walk home that evening, Will sees monsters in the cemetery.
Richard comes over to see Will’s wife and son later. Rebecca mentions that she’s done seances in the past; they were a lot of fun. What she describes doesn’t sound like fun.
That night, both Will and James have nightmares. Will gets his pistol and goes looking for Richard in the cemetery. Will agrees to look at Richard’s new paintings for the agreement that Richard will stay away from Will’s family.
At Richard’s house, Will goes into the basement, and there’s a huge trapdoor over a well in the center. The paintings down here move. Will starts pouring paint thinner on everything. “It’s only art,” Richard insists. Will says Richard’s paintings cause madness. Will gets scared and shoots Richard. “Paint what you see; what is familiar to you,” Richard says with his dying breath.
Will sets the place on fire. Then the real monsters come out of hiding. Richard was only painting what he saw.
When Will gets to the gallery in the morning, Joe has been working all night. The walls are covered in Richard’s work. “I watched that painting burn, Joe!” Will orders Richard’s paintings to be burned— again.
Will goes home that evening to find Rebecca cooking in the kitchen. Where are Rebecca’s eyes? Where is little James? Cooking in the oven!
The paintings are cool, and the little animated bits are neat too. Maybe not too surprisingly, Crispin Glover is very weird here as Richard; that is quite an accent he’s got here. In fact, he’s nearly unintelligible, which I thought detracted from the story.
Episode 6: Dreams in the Witch House
• Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
• Written by H. P. Lovecraft, Mika Watkins, Guillermo Del Toro
• Stars Rupert Grint, Ismael Cruz Cordova, DJ Qualls
Epperley tells her brother Walter that the ghosts are coming for her, and she doesn’t want to go. He promises to protect her, but then she dies. He soon sees her as a ghost, and then something he can’t see drags Epperley’s ghost away.
Decades later, in 1933, Walter goes to a show concerning other dimensions. Madame Levine can talk to people in other dimensions. It’s a sort of stage show of a seance. Walter chases her after the show and learns that she’s a fake.
Walter wants to prove “the other side” is real; he’s seen it but cannot prove it to anyone. Friend Frank wants to move on; he’s tired of being broke working for the spiritualist society. The man in charge says the spiritualist society may close soon, and all paid work is halted.
Walter gets a job as a bartender. Frank says Walter cares more about his dead sister than the living. Walter meets up with a Native American man who knows all about the afterlife. The man gives him a drug and warns him not to make ripples in the force.
Walter wakes up, and he can see the forest of the dead. A vine pulls him through. There is a strange forest beyond, so he looks for Epperley, whom he finds surprisingly quickly. He wakes up back in the real world.
When Walter goes to see Frank, he tells him everything. Frank is not a believer. Walter goes back inside and finds a woman painting a picture of a witch house. This forest is only for those who are too afraid to move on into the afterlife. When he gets pulled back this time, he has a ripped-off piece of Epperley’s dress in his hand. Things can come back!
Walter does some research and finds out where the witch house is located. He packs his stuff and goes there. It’s a nasty, overgrown, moldy old place infested with monkey-rats. He learns of a key to returning things from the afterlife. What is the key? That night, something nasty comes to visit him in bed. It’s the witch and the little talking monkey-rat.
The next night, he takes more of the drug and returns to the magic forest. This time, the witch watches as he goes through the doorway. Epperley warns Walter that something followed him here; something that’s causing ripples.
The witch chases after Walter and Epperley. Walter explains to his sister how he can take her back; the witch wants to come back too. Epperley goes through the portal, but the witch grabs and kisses Walter.
Walter wakes up back in the real world, and Epperley is there, but she’s still a ghost. The monkey-rat is there too, and he’s not happy. Mariana, the woman who lives in the witch’s house says, “For the dead to become living, the living must die. The witch will have you dead by sunrise.”
Mariana and Walter hide in the nearby church for sanctuary, and Walter calls Frank for assistance. The witch arrives and circles the old church. She calls for Walter. Then she breaks open the door and takes him; there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.
Epperley appears to Frank, but he can’t help. She then breaks through the door and stabs the witch with her own wand. Epperley says she isn’t scared any more and is ready to move on, which she does. “I’m finally free, Walter.”
“It’s over. It’s finally over,” Walter says in relief. Mariana and Frank take care of Walter, who has passed out. Frank is thrilled that he’s actually finally seen a ghost. “You were right all along,” he tells the sleeping Walter.
Frank notices the wet spot on the ceiling and goes up into the attic to investigate. There’s a secret room with a dead body inside; that’s the witch’s remains from hundreds of years ago. There’s also a rat skeleton with a human skull. “These are their corporeal bodies,” Frank says.
Downstairs, something bad is happening to Walter. The monkey-rat breaks out of Walter’s chest, Alien-style. He lives again! Walter has died so that the dead thing can live, just like the rules stated. “She won,” Mariana says. The rat crawls back inside Walter, and Walter sits up; the creature will use him as a shell. “Home sweet home,” he rasps.
As we were told in the beginning, the story has a happy ending, at least for someone.
The witch is a fascinating creature with excellent design. The talking monkey-rat, not so much. The sets here are really good, although the story is pretty thin.
Episode 7: The Viewing
• Directed by Paños Cosmatos
• Written by Paños Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ann, Guillermo Del Toro, Sofia Boutella
• Stars Peter Weller, Steve Agee, Eric Andre
It’s 1979. Charlotte gets an invitation from Lionel Lassiter to attend one of his famous “viewings.” She drives to an isolated parking garage to meet Targ, Randall, and Guy. They figure out they’ve all been guests on late-night TV talk shows. Hector tells them all to get into his van for the viewing. Hector turns on an audio tape, and the four passengers listen to strange music.
Dr. Zahra gives Lionel Lassiter an injection of something. The people in the van arrive at the mansion, and it’s a really trippy place. Targ is a know-it-all fake psychic, and he likes to prove how smart he is. After some discussion, Lionel comes in with a fifty-year-old bottle of whiskey.
Lionel says he will inspire Guy to write his greatest book. Targ is working with scientists on ESP. Charlotte wants to prove the existence of alien life in the universe. Randall is a huge musical producer, but he’s having trouble with his newest release. Kevin said Lionel seemed like a “messed up Willy Wonka.”
Randall admits that he has a void inside him, an endless abyss. He has no way to shrink that void. He wants it to stop eating everything up all the time.
Dr. Zahra tells a story about working for Gaddafi and what that was like. Lionel says he serves her. She spoons out about half a pound of cocaine for the others to split. She puts on “fairy dust” that she designed herself. Randall asks if this is some test, and Lionel admits that it is. Each of them has been precisely chosen to be part of this group tonight; Lionel has a reason.
There’s an item he wants to show them all. Before long, they’re all fairly well-baked. A door opens, and they all go to see. It’s an oddly-shaped thing that looks like rock or maybe organic. Charlotte says it’s too rough to be a meteor. Lionel says they couldn’t x-ray or anything else; it’s completely un-analyzable. Targ and Randall are fascinated; Guy thinks it’s just a rock.
The rock makes a sound in their heads; they all hear it. Then… it opens and falls to pieces. A blob-creature rises out of the remnants and grows horns as they watch. Everyone gets a nosebleed. Targ melts; Guy’s head explodes. Zahra puts her hand on it, and she melts too. Charlotte and Randall open the door and run out. The creature liquefies and absorbs Lionel.
Hector grabs his machine gun and shoots the manlike thing in the room. He shoots it full of holes, but it burns him to a crisp with electricity. The creature then wanders into the big city…
The set and time period here is interesting; the music is awesome. The story is really talky and has no real ending. What was the thing, and what happened next? We were entertained throughout, but we wanted more.
Episode 8: The Murmuring
• Director: Jennifer Kent
• Written by: Jennifer Kent, Guillermo Del Toro
• Stars: Essie Davis, Andrew Lincoln, Greg Ellwand
It’s 1951. Nancy gives a lecture about a bird that swarms mysteriously. The swarming is called murmurations; they could even be telepathic. She’s the brains, or at least just as much brains, but the audience is mostly interested in talking to her husband because that’s how things were in 1951. Someone mentions that something bad happened to Edgar and Nancy a while back, but we don’t hear what it was.
The duo goes on a “field trip” to photograph some of the flocking birds. There’s an isolated old house on an island where they can stay.
They find the flocking birds, and they’re happy. That night, Nancy hears a baby crying— suddenly, their tape recorder switches on, waking them both up. The next day, he shoots film while she does audio recordings. Later, she hears footsteps in the house.
Edgar gets home and wants to dance, but she’s not in the mood. “You’re never in the mood,” he complains. That night, she finds a bunch of the birds roosting in the attic, something that species is not normally known for doing.
After a while, Nancy hears a child’s voice on the tapes. She thinks the birds are drawn to this house for some mysterious reason. We soon see that she’s still in mourning or shock over the loss of their child.
A child comes into their room that night. “I’m so cold,” he whispers. Edgar doesn’t hear anything, but Nancy is freaked out. She has emotional problems, and Edgar doesn’t know what she wants. When she wakes up that night, there’s an actual baby in the room with her. Then it’s gone.
She follows the crying downstairs and finds a bunch of letters marked “To my sweetheart.” It’s from a man cheating on his wife. She sees a little boy that afternoon and follows him until she sees his face is all messed up. She runs into several more ghost encounters, and before long, Edgar thinks she’s cracking up.
Nancy asks Mr. Grieves, the caretaker, about the people who lived in the house. The woman who lived there drowned her son and then killed herself thirty years ago. He doesn’t believe in ghosts.
Edgar blows up and yells that Nancy has never shed a tear over their own dead daughter. He’s tried and tried to connect with Nancy, but she drifts further and further away. The mother ghost keeps screaming, “What have you done!”
The little ghost cries, wanting to know what he did wrong, and Nancy assures him that he has done nothing wrong. She talks him into going into the light.
Nancy goes outside, and the birds swarm around her. She calls Edgar and apologizes; she wants to talk about Eva now.
Man, that was boring! It’s a more “realistic” ghost story, without a lot of jump scares or over-the-top weirdness. Unfortunately, that makes it really slow.
We thought there would be a twist at the end where we would see that she murdered her own daughter, but that didn’t happen, she simply straightened out her thinking after helping the ghost boy. Or maybe that’s exactly what happened, and it was just being really subtle about it— She kept talking about “freedom” and being devoted to her career, so it makes a kind of sense that she might have been glad the baby died— maybe she helped it along a. Little?
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