Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities ‘The Autopsy’ review: F. Murray Abraham cuts into alien body in Lovecraftian horror


Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities crafts a mystery around the aftermath of an explosion in ‘The Autopsy’, with F. Murray Abraham cutting up a body for much of the episode, that may or may not be human.

Guillermo Del Toro loves a bit of H.P. Lovecraft, the horror writer inspiring his work, and responsible for ‘At the Mountains of Madness,’ which is one of the Mexican director’s great unmade projects.

Lovecraft clearly casts a shadow over this horror anthology too, with opening episode ‘Lot 36’ paying homage to the author, and this episode – ‘The Autopsy’ – having much in common with his 1927 short story ‘The Color Out of Space.’

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It begins with Del Toro addressing the audience however, and describing “A shooting star, crossing the vast, indifferent night sky. Perhaps carrying an answer to that age-old question, are we alone in the universe?”

Then setting the scene of the story to follow, he pulls out a pair of props – including a scalpel – and adds: “Recorded on a modest device, stained with blood and death, the answer is a decidedly terrifying no…

What is Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities ‘The Autopsy’ about?

Following a brief prologue in which what appears to be a bomb blows up a mine as well as the poor souls inside, the story starts proper with reporting pathologist Dr. Carl Winter arriving in a small town to investigate the big bang.

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He meets Police Chief Nate, and over stiff drinks, his old friend recounts the events leading up to said explosion, which he deems a special kind of nightmare “that you never get to the bottom of.”

Seems locals have been going missing for the past two months, then showing up dismembered. The disappearances are traced back to a mill worker called Edward Sykes, who himself went missing while hiking to check out a meteor shower, then reappeared claiming he’s called Joe Allen.

Having told his story, Nate takes Carl to the bodies from the mine, where his job is to perform an autopsy on behalf of the Montague County Coroner’s Office.

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Great actors going toe-to-toe

Glynn Turman – who appeared in Bumblebee and Super 8, and gave a generation of kids nightmares when he offered that candy bar to a Gremlin back in 1984 – plays Nate.

While F. Murray Abraham – star of Scarface and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and an Oscar-winner for Amadeus – plays Carl.

It’s a pleasure watching these two acting heavyweights go toe-to-toe, when discussing the details of the case, or revealing more personal troubles, and their conversations are the episodes most electric scenes.

Then the autopsy commences, and it’s Carl on his own, with only a machine to record himself for company. Unless you count the seemingly bodies next door. He describes in horrific detail what he’s doing, while we see every cut of his knife, making this an instalment that probably isn’t for the squeamish.

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As Carl then delves ever deeper into the cadavers before him, he learns the terrible truth…

Fear and Paranoia take hold

‘The Autopsy’ is based on a short story by Michael Shea. Which in turn has been adapted by David S. Goyer, of The Dark Knight and Dark City fame. And Lovecraft isn’t the only influence on the script.

There are shades of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in ‘The Autopsy,’ as well as that film’s remakes, and rip-offs like The Faculty and Slither. Invaders From Mars is another movie to which homage is paid.

But where those films showed the horror, this episode – maybe due to the limitations of TV – chooses to tell, with much of the climax revolving around a speech explaining events that would be much more interesting playing out onscreen.

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Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities ‘The Autopsy’ score: 7/10

Which makes for an episode where the pay-off doesn’t quite match the set-up, which is frustrating based on what’s come before. That said, director David Prior – who helmed the terrifying Empty Man – oversees proceedings with some flair, particularly during the titular autopsy. While the final image of Carl will chill you to the bone, which is the perfect way to end an hour of horror.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is streaming on Netflix.

Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities reviews