Kate Micucci is not new to playing a social outcast, but she is almost unrecognizable at first glance in Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities and absolutely brilliant as the lead in the episode titled ‘The Outside’.
Based on a short story by Emilly Carroll and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, ‘The Outside’ is a terrifying twisted satire on the beauty industry. Micucci is bank employee Stacey, whose doesn’t fit in at work, where all her colleagues all attractive bitchy women obsessed with men, money, make-up and all things materialistic. Stacy is content with her post-office domestic life, watching television and doing taxidermy. All that changes when she is invited to an all women Christmas party for the first time. Something in Stacey snaps and she spirals into a disconcerting circle of self-harm, as she attempts to look ‘beautiful’.
‘The Outside’ reminds one of the animated short film titled ‘Boyd in 3D’, which was part of the ‘Diabolical’ anthology and had a dark take on absurd beauty standards too. However, while the colorful animated world of ‘Boyd in 3D’ also explored the toxic ramifications of ‘social media’, Stacy’s story is set in the 20th century, where television was still the biggest ‘influencer’. The cinematography is wondrously retro, with sets drenched in orange hues, so the tale has more of a ‘Halloween’ vibe than Christmas.
This episode doesn’t serve the kind of traditional horror fans would expect, but it’s nerve-wracking and arresting. Kate Micucci’s performance is the absolute heart of the story and her character gets a brief ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ moment that’s pretty memorable. The climax is unexpected and hilariously dark.
It’s a 8/10 from me for this one.
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