Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities: The Viewing
November 2, 2022 6:47 PM - Season 1, Episode 7 - Subscribe

In 1979, a wealthy man (Peter Weller) invites a select group of experts to a mysterious viewing at his elaborate compound.

Directed and co-written by Panos Cosmatos, best known for Mandy (previously), though the short more closely resembles his earlier effort Beyond the Black Rainbow. Featuring Eric Andre.
posted by whir (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What if Death Proof, but cosmic horror.

No but seriously I did enjoy this on its own merits, but that may largely be because of my deep enjoyment of BtBR and Cosmatos' sumptuous (if somnambulistic) shot framing and sound work. Coming in blank on this might leave an audience baffled as to why the first 90% of the work was about character development that has zero impact on the finale after Eric Andre gets an alien high.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:11 PM on November 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

This was far and away my favorite of the series. I see people complaining that it was slow, or not enough happens, but that is not the point. The vibes are immaculate.
posted by skycrashesdown at 10:11 AM on November 3, 2022 [7 favorites]

Agree that this was more vibes than plot, but oh those vibes!

I love how much was left unanswered.
posted by jeoc at 6:19 AM on November 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

I liked that the Asian woman was a demon behind the wheel.
I found the whole activation sequence odd. The musician who's been quitting smoking suddenly has the urge to light up repeatedly, despite being told not to (why?) by the host. It really felt like he was being influenced, but by who/what? If by the thing in the meteorite, why did it require an outsider to free itself?
The episode's open to a lot of theory spinning, which is cool.
posted by Spike Glee at 7:12 AM on November 7, 2022

he musician who's been quitting smoking suddenly has the urge to light up repeatedly, despite being told not to (why?) by the host.

I just thought he was feeling super stressed by that point, plus they were all super intoxicated on various substances by that point, so his desire to not smoke was probably much lower.

Although, aside from seeing a trippy rock, there wasn't much reason for him to actually feel stressed out until after he'd blown his smoke into it, so maybe you're right...

I agree that, overall, this was one of the better episodes. The vibes were great and the ending was a wonderful blend of cosmic horror and stoner comedy, and now I want to see an extended cut that is about 30-50 minutes longer, with all sorts of stoner hijinks as Eric Andre and Charlyne Yi continue to flee from the alien and/or Old God that they've just accidentally freed.
posted by asnider at 8:54 AM on November 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

This was... trippy... and extremely enjoyable... So enjoyable that I am going ensure I watch "Beyond the Black Rainbow" ASAP (I absolutely loved "Mandy", so...)
posted by rozcakj at 5:48 AM on November 8, 2022

Hmm. While I've generally found del Toro's little intro bits charming, this one might've done the film some disservice. All his talk about "collectors" and "collecting" and "when do the collectors become the collected" made me think that we were in for something rather different; "reclusive billionaire literally literally collects people" (which was kind of hinted at in the conversations about various artists working exclusively for Weller's character), or "collector invites a group of rival collectors to view his latest acquisition and he plans to do something horrible to them", or "object that Weller has collected turns out to be a supernatural or alien entity that collects humans." (Which I guess was kinda what happened?)

In any case, I think I wound up spending too much time trying to figure out where the film was going, and not enough just considering the film on its own merits.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:10 AM on November 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

I thought the same, soundguy99. The intro didn't really do it justice, even if "rich man collects people" was a major part of the subtext right up until the big reveal.
posted by asnider at 6:41 AM on November 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

I couldn't believe my luck when a friend told me this episode existed. I am a huge Panos Cosmatos fan. I'd ignored this show up until then, so I decided to check it out. While I didn't hate the episodes prior to this (other than the mess that was "Dreams in the Witch House"), I wasn't prepared for how gloriously out of place "The Viewing" would be.

Cinematically and stylistically, it's head and shoulders above everything else in this series. Seriously, it's like nobody else had any idea whatsoever of how to make their segment unique. (Yeah, "The Outside" was pretty cool, and I loved her first movie, but refer back to my brazen Cosmatos partisanship.)

It wasn't all style: Eric André, Peter Weller, the dude from Sarah Silverman - the casting was solid gold. I didn't recognize the woman playing the astrophysicist, but she did know how to party, and played the role perfectly.

Tibetan menthols. I quit smoking 2.5 years ago, and I've smoked tons of Chinese cigarettes, but if I was offered a Tibetan menthol, there'd be no hesitation.

"If you were ever going to do cocaine, this is the time."

Peter Weller's commission of bitchin' synth scores.

The utterly perfect conversation pit, a design element that deserves to come back.

The gold-plated AK-47.

"No smoking in the omega chamber" (or whatever he called it).

One of the things I liked most was that Weller's louche, rich scumbag had no idea what he was doing. Sure, he'd acquired something unique, but instead of pretending like he knew what was up, he brought in artists and scientists to experience it with. Oops.

I'm more than a little obsessed with Cosmatos' lens on history c. 1983 (or, to run the gamut through his films, 1966-1983), so a project set in the year of my birth is exceptionally gratifying. As my wife and I watched this, I told her "I wish I'd been alive in 1979 instead of just being born then."

What a way to spend a Sunday evening.
posted by heteronym at 6:51 PM on November 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

I don't feel like it's fair to compare this to the rest of the series (I haven't seen the last one yet), as this is just on a different level. Can...can this somehow get an Oscar?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:57 PM on November 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

I've always hoped someone would give Panos Cosmatos an actual story. It would be remarkable.

But this is a step in the right direction.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:44 PM on November 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Not quite sure why this episode is so popular. I was disappointed, as I was with most of the series. I felt like I watched 40 minutes of foreshadowing that had absolutely no relevance on the outcome. Why did the driver of the van ask the participants to not talk and listen to the music for the last part of the van ride? What did the (Asian woman Dr.) that the Peter Weller character pledged undying love for really have to do with anything? Why 30 minutes of various drugs being used? The alcohol and cocaine substances were made to seem like they might be serious plot elements in the story. Why is the driver/helper guy seen behind a two way mirror almost crying as if he were a character from the movie Get Out? What did any of the guests particular talents have to do with anything?

All of it has exactly zero to do with the climax of the show and isn't explained or relevant. It all just seems like non-relevant filler. The entire episode could have been 30 minutes: eccentric billionaire invites assorted guests to view cosmic rock. Said Rock destroys all guests except for two for unknown reasons, ie, there's no indication why the two that escape are able to make it out while everyone else is melted and/or probed.

Literally the only thing that gave me some heebie jeebies from this episode was when the creature was first emerging from the rock, the way one of his horns emerged and grew faster than the other one was fascinating and I thought a nice spooky touch. Typical horror movie creature effects would generally not have thought of that I don't think. It made the creature seem more organic/real to me.
posted by WhenInGnome at 10:05 PM on December 13, 2022

I, too, loved this episode for its style, the performances, the set design, the music, Peter Weller's John Carradine impression, and everything else really. This was the first half of the best retro-70's monster movie ever made, and I'm sorry we didn't get to see the next 45 minutes of Eric Andre and the astrophysicist hunting it down.

This is exactly the kind of short I wanted from this horror anthology.
posted by riotnrrd at 8:14 AM on November 7, 2023

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