“Lot 36” begins with a slow build that creates atmosphere and intrigue, but this is all for nothing and is completely wasted in an anticlimactic finale. The anthology series has potential, with spellbinding opening credits, although it gets off to a slightly disappointing start.
We recap the Netflix Horror anthological series Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities season 1, episode 1, “Lot 36,” which contains spoilers.
The horror genre and the anthology series seem to go hand in hand, which works wonders for shows such as Black Mirror, Inside No. 9, and Love, Death & Robots. Yet this perfect marriage of concepts has actually been operating for decades now, with The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents being just a few of the trailblazers in this particular field. The latter is given the homage treatment in Netflix’s anthology series Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, with Guillermo del Toro himself introducing us to this enticing premise in person just like Hitchcock once did.
Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities season 1, episode 1 recap
Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) steps towards the camera, paying tribute to the idolized auteur Alfred Hitchcock, who would introduce each instalment in the fifties anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents in a similar fashion. Del Toro explains the history behind these cabinets of curiosities, which were elaborate pieces of furniture that homed collections, including books, paintings and artefacts. The items within could be as large as a suit of armor or as small as a set of keys. The first in del Toro’s anthology series presentation fixates on a set of storage unit keys. Del Toro then announces the title of the episode and the episode’s director. “Lot 36” is directed by frequent collaborator Guillermo Navarro.
The episode commences with the owner of Lot 36 collapsing in his messy apartment. Nick Appleton (Tim Blake Nelson) is tipped off about this specific unit being a treasure trove of collectibles and therefore bids highly on the lot, buying all of the contents that can be found within. Nick is framed as a racist war veteran, who owes some nasty people a lot of money. He’s made a living for himself, snatching up these lots and then selling on the antiques found inside. After purchasing the lot, he is shown a video by the storage unit owner Eddie.
A grainy VHS tape shows the previous owner visiting daily and dropping off a bag of items. Adding an extra layer of unease to proceedings, the lot owner seems to hop in and out of the storage unit like a loon. Nick has no time for this scaremongering and quickly starts to rummage through the piles of boxes and furniture, sorting the contents out into piles, hunting for money-making valuables. And he has hit the jackpot this time around, finding Nazi photographs, an antique candelabra and a table with a pentagram symbol engraved upon its surface.
Meanwhile, Eddie gets into an altercation with another storage unit owner, Amelia, of possibly Mexican or Spanish heritage. She was behind on her payments and Eddie accidentally sold her lot to Nick before contacting her about her eviction notice. Eddie suggests that Amelia talks with Nick about retrieving some of her family’s belongings. Of course, Nick is cutthroat with her and won’t return any family photographs or treasured letters. He asks for a payment of one grand for the leftovers, which Amelia cannot afford. The argument addresses themes of ownership and American law, whilst veering towards racism near the end.
Nick ignores Amelia’s pleas and packs his truck with the precious cargo, preparing to meet with a potential buyer that night. On his way out, Nick is attacked and his truck is vandalized. The thug demands twelve grand by tomorrow or else. Whilst Nick applies first aid to his wounds, Eddie suggests his own collector, a woman named Agatha. Nick subsequently meets with this antique dealer and offers her his finest items. She points out the séance table and finds a hidden drawer underneath. The drawer contains three books on spells and demonic symbols, but a fourth one is missing.
Agatha calls up her specialist on the occult, Roland. He rushes over and pays for the items. The three ancient books are worth a great deal, but if he can acquire the fourth then he’ll pay him 300 grand. The mistrustful collector and Nick promptly drive back to the lot and search for the elusive book. On their way there, Roland provides some backstory on the previous owner. A weapons maker for Germany, who dabbled in the occult and attempted to possess his sister no less. Nick doesn’t buy into the supernatural story, but is desperate for the cash, so he keeps quiet.
Nick and Roland investigate the lot once more and find a hidden doorway. The door leads to a passageway, with crosses and bible pages lining the walls. At the end of this meandering passageway, they find a corpse pinned to the floor, presumably that of the owner’s sister. A demon swirls within the sister’s hollowed-out head and the fourth book rests on a stand at the other side of the room. Holding the lit candelabra, Roland warns Nick not to step over the threshold, but he can’t help himself. Nick swipes the book and awakens the demon.
Tentacles start to rise from out of the hole and the demon stands. Poor Roland is attacked and eaten, whilst the fourth book sets on fire. Nick turns and legs it, racing out of the unit. The monster chases after him. Those pesky lights cut out and Nick finds himself lost in a maze of corridors in the dark. He eventually makes it to the exit, although the door is locked. Amelia lurks on the other side. Nick pleads with her to open the door, but she just walks off, delivering her own form of payback. Nick returns to seek out another exit and is attacked by the demon that no doubt kills the racist.
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