Spoilers for “Dreams in the Witch House” from Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities are included in this article.
It can be difficult to adequately adapt H.P. Lovecraft‘s writing because of its very nature. The enormously renowned horror and science fiction writer from the early 20th century delighted in describing the unspeakable.
Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos” contains such profound horrors that his protagonists frequently can’t even perceive them without going insane. How precisely is the unseeable to be created in any visual medium? You choose to ensnare one of the other human senses instead, claims Catherine Hardwicke, director of “Dreams in the Witch House.”
Adapting the Lovecraft short story of the same name, Hardwicke claims that it “almost felt like a story written for a sound designer.” “(The narrative) only mentions the creaks and sounds that are permeating the witch house. I made sure the sound designers entered there carefully step by step.
The sixth chapter of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, a Netflix anthology of horror stories, is titled “Dreams in the Witch House.
” The short film, which was directed by Hardwicke (Twilight) and written by Watkins (Black Mirror), was published on the same day as “Pickman’s Model,” a Lovecraftian enough episode to prompt the series to rename its release day double feature “Night Three: Lovecraft.” Funny enough, just one of the two new episodes—the one that could seem least Lovecraftian to a modern audience—was really adapted from a Lovecraft story.
Only “Dreams in the Witch House” is directly from the frightening Rhode Island author, but “Pickman’s Model” contains appropriately eldritch ideas like empty bleeding eye sockets, horror beyond human comprehension, and a big ol’ honkin’ monster. Part of the reason for this is that “Dreams” deviates a little from the norm for a Lovecraftian work in that it is A.
not particularly well-regarded, and B. really adaptable, as seen by its previous retelling in Showtime’sMasters of Horror series. The fact that the storytellers for Cabinet went above and beyond to smoothly translate it to the screen is another contributing factor.
According to Hardwicke, “(the script) significantly departed from the Lovecraft story.” “Mika developed all of these concepts to enhance it and add more human dynamics. We deepened it and gave the female characters greater depth.
While the resident of the titular Witch House in Lovecraft’s original story is a mathematician and folklorist seeking out the occult mysteries for intellectual motives, Walter Gilman (Rupert Grint) searches out the Witch House for very personal reasons in this rendition.
He has dedicated his entire adult life to trying to bring his twin sister back after seeing her death and the spirit of his sister being taken into the Forest of Lost Souls. The Forest of Lost Souls and Walter’s twin link are both show inventions.
Certain aspects of this story merit inclusion, even as we make Lovecraft more approachable for photographers. Of course, Keziah Mason, the terrifying witch at the heart of the Witch House, is foremost among them.
The show-stopping monster designs that Guillermo del Toro is renowned for appearing in nearly all of his Cabinet of Curiosities episodes. But Keziah Mason stands out among a sea of abhorrent rivals. This zombie witch cuts an intimidating figure throughout the second half of the story. She is equal parts flora, human, and hate.
Working with Guillermo and his team on the witch was one of the project’s highlights, according to Hardwicke. “Guy Davis is a talented concept artist who has worked with (del Toro) for many years. He has the monster designers who create all the prosthetics, and he also has the costume designer
(Luis Sequeira), who created all the roots and everything. It was just pure fun working with Guillermo and each of those three teams. When you see the prosthetics on the actress Like Johnston and the design come together, it’s just so unsettling.
The rat of it all is the next factor. Since Keziah Mason is a witch, she has access to a familiar, eerie animal companion who helps her perform black magic. In Lovecraft’s short story, Keziah has a familiar name Brown Jenkin, which has “a little white-fanged fuzzy thing” that resembles a rat with a human face.
The familiar retains much of its rat and human qualities in the Cabinet of Curiosities edition but is now known as Jenkins Brown.
Six episodes in, the rat-a-palooza known as “Graveyard Rats” has established itself as something of a recurring pattern for the Cabinet of Curiosities.
Hardwicke Is Vehemently Partisan in Favor of Her Rodent.
“My rat has a human face, therefore I was thinking it would be better than all the other rats. So, do you believe that to be true? Is my rodent any cooler? Asks Hardwicke. When she learns that the German shepherd-sized “Queen Rat” from “Graveyard Rats” actually exists, she demands to know, “Okay. However, is that rat humorous or not?
Jenkins Brown is really humorous, but that rat is definitely not. Jenkins Brown, who is portrayed by DJ Qualls in both voice and prosthetic appearance, offers a deliriously bizarre element to “Dreams in the Witch House” that is hard to believe.
A snarky, talking rat that burrows into the protagonist’s body before bursting out of it? The brain is scarcely able to handle that! Maybe “Dreams in the Witch House” has more Lovecraftian elements than first meets the eye…
Netflix now has six episodes of Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities accessible for viewing. The first episode of the final two will air on October 28.