Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, Episode 3 (The Autopsy) & Episode 4 (The Outside) Recap: The first two episodes of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities dealt with eldritch creatures hidden away inside false walls and underground caverns. The following two episodes, namely, The Autopsy and The Outside, deal with different facets of horror. While The Autopsy edges towards good old body horror and deals with alien lifeforms, The Outside is a metaphorical commentary about the horrors of the beauty industry and how shallow these societal standards can be.
Before we proceed, there are SPOILERS AHEAD for The Autopsy and The Outside.
Cabinet Of Curiosities, Episode 3: The Autopsy Plot Synopsis
A Mysterious Comet Shower In The Sky
The Autopsy is directed by David Prior, best known for his mind-bending horror gem, The Empty Man, and written by David S. Goyer. Del Toro introduces the story by asking whether we are really the only sentient beings in the universe and whether the prospect of being alone is better than not being the only ones. The episode starts in a noir-ish manner after an explosion in a mine shift claims the life of ten men. However, this is no mere accident or terrorist activity, as the bomb in question is a small, hairy ball that a man named Joe Allen (Luke Roberts) scooped up during a meteor shower.
It prompts an investigation of the case, as there have also been multiple disappearances in the town. Sheriff Nate Craven (Glynn Turman) wants to help the deceased miner’s family get compensation for the deaths. Still, the insurance company wants to paint it as a terrorist activity that has nothing to do with the nature of their work. Going off the book, the Sherriff turns to pathologist Carl (a brilliant F. Murray Abraham), who is expected to carry out an autopsy on the bodies to determine whether there was a bomb at all.
The story unfurls in a standard noir manner, wherein the Sherrif brings Dr. Carl up to date about the events, explaining that everything goes back to the disappearance of a man named Eddie Sykes. Other folks started disappearing too, and the police found a bloodless body in the woods, with chunks of its flesh peeled away expertly from the skin. The victim is identified as Abel Dougherty (James Acton), last seen in Trucker’s Tavern, where he stumbled upon Eddie. Eddie, however, insists that he’s Joe Allen and uses suggestive powers to take Abel home. Abel disappeared, and his body ended up in the woods two months later.
Cutting Up Bodies In The Dead Of The Night
The Sherriff explains that they had tracked down Joe Allen and found Abel’s documents in his house, enough to get him arrested. They also find the hairy object from the meteor shower, which the Sherriff confiscates. Heading to the mines to confront Joe, they chase him, and he steals the artifact and runs inside the mines. As the miners are on their way out, Joe’s presence dooms them, and they die in an explosion, which destroys the artifact.
After learning everything, Carl says he will help out in any manner he can while revealing that he only has six months to live due to stomach cancer. The Sherriff leaves Carl alone in a makeshift morgue and says he will come to check on him at sunup. It is where the true terror begins. As Carl cuts up the miners closest to the bomb, he realizes that none of them have bomb shrapnel in their bodies. In fact, two of the miners are entirely bloodless, with small wounds on their chests. Carl records his observations on a tape for the Sheriff and muses whether all the lost blood in the miners will be found in Joe Allen’s body.
Before he can do so, Joe gets up and comes alive. He moves like a zombie, asking the doctor to help him. Gradually, he reveals that Eddie Sykes is the host he had sought and that he’s a parasitic alien species, the hairy ball being his ship. The alien says that he needs to jump into another body as Eddie is now a decaying host and targets Carl for this purpose. Although frightened, Carl asks the alien where they’re from and their purpose. The alien says that humans are their food and that they thrive on the host’s pain, along with that of their prey. Before the doctor can react, he is knocked out by Eddie/Joe.
The Autopsy Review And Ending, Explained
Prior knows how to use atmosphere to heighten terror, and the mortuary sequences are evidence of that. The shift from a detective noir mystery to an atmospheric body horror is clean and seamless. There’s one particular scene in which the hair on Carl’s neck stands up due to an ominous premonition, which is masterfully done. Abraham is the beating heart of the episode and relays the curiosity-laced terror one would feel when faced with an alien threat. Finding himself tied up, Carl chides the alien for its arrogance and buys time in the process. The alien was only a larva when it crawled inside Eddie’s mouth but now it is so big that it has to create an incision on Carl to take over his body.
In the process, the alien reveals that it relies heavily on human senses to survive, as it is akin to a leech that takes over a host and controls their lives. Although Eddie is muted inside his own body, he attempts to help the doctor with an extended hand that holds a scalpel once the parasite exits his body. However, after the doctor finds it difficult to reach, he takes the scalpel and punctures his eyes and ears, ensuring that the alien is trapped inside with all sensory functions cut off. Using his blood to write a final message on his chest, Carl slits his throat, essentially trapping the alien inside while he bleeds out.
At dawn, the Sherriff arrives and finds a mutilated Carl, with the bloodied words PLAY TAPE BURN ME on his chest. The alien, in his arrogance, failed to take into account that Carl’s tape was on during the whole ordeal and that the Sherriff would have enough proof to solve the case and destroy the alien once and for all. Carl’s sacrifice saves the human race and is a reminder of the unknown terrors that lurk at the galaxy’s edges.
Cabinet Of Curiosities, Episode 4: The Outside Plot Synopsis
The Beauty Industry Makes Monsters Out Of Us
Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, who created the beautiful vampire tale, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, The Outsider is a psychological exploration into the pressures caused by impossible and harmful societal beauty standards. The episode opens with Stacy (Kate Micucci), a young woman who is spending Christmas alone in her cozy home, watching infomercials while having microwaved chicken wings. After hearing creaks in the house, she grabs an axe, checks every corner, and calls her cop boyfriend Keith (Martin Starr), who reassures her that it’s just the house making noises. Despite his sweet reassurance, Stacy is on edge and seems over-reliant on Keith to feel safe, which is understandable, as he’s the only one who s truly there for her.
At work, Stacy has been relegated to the status of the outsider, as her female colleagues spend their days gossiping about other people’s sex lives and other vapid topics. Although Stacy has nothing in common with them and appears to be more substantial as an individual than they can ever be, she yearns for their approval and wants to fit in. Stacy is overjoyed after she is invited to one of her colleagues, Gina’s, secret Santa party, and decides to gift her a taxidermied duck, as it is one of her artistic passions. However, Keith is a bit suspicious as he says that they never invited her all these years, and this sudden inclusion is rude, and he’s right.
Although I personally do not endorse Stacy’s taxidermy hobby, it is something that brings comfort to her and is an outlet for her emotions. Although there is nothing wrong with the hobby per se, gifting someone a real duck after you remove its organs and stuff it with plaster is a bit too much, especially as a Christmas gift. Gina obviously does not react well to her gift, although she thanks her, while the others comment on how odd it is for Stacy to gift such a thing. Gina gifts everyone a box of Alo Glo, the latest beauty product in the market, which claims to turn “an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan,” and all the girls lather it on their skin obsessively. Unfortunately, Stacey is allergic to Alo Glo; her skin breaks out in rashes, and she must go home.
The Obsessive Need To Feel Beautiful, No Matter What The Cost
Back at home, Keith tells Stacy that Alo Glo is no miracle product but a scam. However, Stacy is heartbroken that the only miracle beauty product that can make her socially acceptable is harmful to her. While watching a late-night infomercial for Alo Glo, the television salesman (Dan Stevens) addresses Stacey directly through the screen. Using her insecurities against her, the salesman asks her to keep using Alo Glo, despite the harsh allergic reaction. He claims that the body itching is proof that it is working and that she will soon undergo a transformation and be able to fit in with the women at work. Stacey gives in and ends up ordering an entire carton of Alo Glo the following day.
Keith is understandably worried about his girlfriend and asks her to stop using the cream that is making her rashes worse. He insists on taking her to a dermatologist, but Stacey screams at him instead, saying that he will never understand because he’s a man. While women have it harder in terms of satiating arbitrary beauty standards than men, and I understand what Amirpour is driving at, Keith’s attitude does not stem from privilege but concern. It is easy to be swept up into the need to feel desired, to fit in, but would you do it at the cost of being a fulfilled human being? Despite Keith’s repeated affirmations that Stacey is perfect the way she is, she ignores his words and slaps on more Alo Glo.
In the basement, the bottles of Alo Glo become sentient and form an idealized version of Stacy, whom she kisses, embracing the transformation that is about to happen. After the salesman on TV reaffirms that she will become beautiful and desired, Stacey is firm in her attitude. Meanwhile, Keith is concerned about Stacey’s mental health and urges her to understand that he loves her because she’s funny, smart, kind, and perfect to him. But Stacey is too far gone: she stabs his forehead with a screwdriver, kills him with an axe, and taxidermies him like one of her animals.
The Outsider Review And Ending, Explained
Amirpour obviously etches The Outsider as a cautionary tale, where a woman, who had nothing wrong with her to begin with, chases external beauty to the point that she kills the only genuine, loving person in her life. Stacey gets what she desires after submerging herself into a tub of the sentient Alo Glo, which morphs her body and makes her more “desirable” while making her skin flawless. The next day, she goes to work all done up, with makeup and a pretty dress, and becomes the center of attention as the other women hound her for approval. Stacey is finally one of them, gossiping about inane things, surrounded by people who are as fickle and fake as beauty trends. The episode ends ominously, with Stacey floating upwards and laughing manically at the camera, surrounded by a golden glow powered by external validation. This is not a happy ending.
Thousands of women are targeted by the beauty industry on a daily, be it via influencer culture or targeted ads that take advantage of our insecurities. Here’s a cream for fine lines, a tea to lose weight, and a gel to keep your breasts perky. The onslaught is relentless and makes us shells of who we are, reducing us to shallow, validation-craved, insecure beings. It is no way to live. Self-love stems from accepting our flaws and bettering them, and those flaws are internal. No matter how pretty one manages to be or how put-together on social media, what matters is the quality of your relationships and the kind of person you are. Negating all of that for fifteen minutes of shallow validation is the true horror.