Today we have three 31 Days of Horror entries. None of them are all that horrifying, but whatever, I had fun watching them!
I didn’t realize that the Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities series was available just yet, so I was surprised to see it all up on Netflix. The original plan had been to watch some Yvan-friendly things. He doesn’t love horror, but we can usually find a few compromises, and this time around it was Marvel’s relatively new Werewolf By Night and Disney’s The Black Cauldron, which he confessed had scared the crap out of him as a child.
Werewolf By Night was fine. I feel like I can’t really comment on it too much because I don’t really know any of the story, but as someone who typically enjoys a Marvel yarn–even though I don’t love superheroes– I found myself appreciating Werewolf By Night more than I thought I would. Probably because monsters are always more interesting than heroes, right? The story, a bunch of monster hunters gathering to claim a legendary monster-hunting artifact (but there’s a surprise amongst them!) seemed like a campy, pulpy, love letter to Universal Horror via an action-packed Marvel delivery system. I can’t help but to wonder if some folks took issue with the black & white format…you know, like the same people who complain about having to watch something with subtitles. Those people.
The Black Cauldron probably would have scared me as a kid, too! The story of a young pig-keeper, the oracular pig he is charged with protecting, and The villainous Horned King who wants to get his hands on the evil Black Cauldron to use its powers to raise an army of the dead. His motivations? Unclear. It’s just a thing that megalomaniacal hooded skull-faced overlords do, as we have seen time and again, throughout history.
Anyway, he needs to get his hands on the pig, whose visions will reveal the whereabouts of this wicked vessel of badness. There’s a ragtag group of misfit friends made along the way, including an absolutely unidentifiable little animal who sounds a lot like Smeagol, there are some fairies, some witches, and some dragons, but things work out for the best in the end, and it’s more or less your typical children’s fantasy fare. Maybe a lot darker, though. If you’re a six-year-old like Yvan (I would have been ten at the time, so there’s a thing you didn’t know about me, I’m a bit of a cradle robber) but anyway, if you were a kid and saw this, it probably would be awfully frightening. Nightmare fuel in the form of skeleton armies, brooding labyrinthine castles, and violent scenarios involving cute animals, such as when the dragons are chasing poor Henwen the pig across a field, or when one of the goons almost chops off her head.
Having never seen it before, I can’t say if the movie holds up, but it does seem like it might have been a little ahead of its time for Disney, and the animated backgrounds–the forest, the castle, even some scenes of the cauldron itself, were absolutely beautiful. The Black Cauldron is part of a larger storyverse–The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander, and apparently one of my brothers-in-law has the entire collection on his shelf. I’ll have to look into borrowing it.
Finally, in “Lot 36,” the first installment of Cabinet of Curiosities, we follow a miserable, down-on-his-luck Nick, who buys abandoned storage spaces and sells the contents within to make a profit. Nick owes some money to some shady people and is hopeful that some of the rare old things in the space he just purchased will lead to a major bit of money. Things get occulty and nasty!
Though not a particularly scary episode, there were elements of the story that did draw me in regardless and showcased some really pretty antique items. Well, things that looked like antiques, anyway. There was a massive piece of gorgeous Victorian hair work that, were it real, I’m sure I know a handful of friends who would go absolutely nuts for it.
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