Based on a short story by Guillermo del Toro and written by Regina Corrado and del Toro, director Guillermo Navarro’s “Lot 36” opens with an old man (James Neely) watching George H.W. Bush commencing the Gulf War. As the man proceeds to chop up a bunch of meat – some of which looks like it belongs to rodents – he suffers a cardiac arrest and dies. Years later, we follow Nick Appleton, who is a war veteran, a raging racist, and someone who buys out storage units and sells the items in them to earn money. One day, he secures the titular unit and finds photos related to Nazism, a candelabra, antique chairs, and a table with a pentagram on it out of the many items stored there. The owner of the warehouse, Eddie (Demetrius Grosse), suggests he get it assessed by Agatha (Martha Burns), who in turn calls Roland (Sebastian Roché) to help both of them out. And what Nick and Roland find out is more than what they bargained for.
‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ Episode 1 “Lot 36” Review
Straight off the bat, it’s clear that “Lot 36” is a slow burn. It spends around 35 minutes out of its 41-minute runtime on the mystery surrounding this storage unit. You are forced to ask questions after questions like “What is that rodent meat for?”, “What is up with the old man hopping in front of his storage unit?”, “Why are Agatha and Roland obsessing over these chairs and a séance table?” and “Why is Nick being so nonchalant about such a potentially dangerous situation?” And the biggest reason behind this method of storytelling is to make you familiar with who Nick Appleton is as a human being. It’s a horror short. So, you know something bad is going to occur. But you, as a viewer, need to either fear for Nick or rejoice at the notion that an entity or ghoul or demon that’s somehow worse than Nick is coming for him or wonder if Nick deserves a second chance despite being a douchebag. Once that is established, Del Toro, Corrado, and Navarro let the monster loose.
Although a lot isn’t known about the making of “Lot 36,” the effort that has gone into making a storage facility look like a maze with a mind of its own is palpable. If Navarro tells me that they rented a facility and shot there for several days, I will believe him. If Navarro tells me that, apart from the external shots, everything that happens in the storage facility is a set, I will believe that too. That’s a roundabout way of saying the production design, cinematography, lighting, art direction, editing, sound design, score, and direction are so impeccable that you are never taken out of the short film. And the demon that eventually appears is perfect. I couldn’t figure out where the physical actor (who’s performing the creature’s movements) ends and where the VFX begins. Now, that has a lot to do with mind-melting design. But the shock of witnessing that creature also comes from the sudden shift in tone as it goes from a subdued mystery to a cult horror with a demon from the beyond hurtling at you.
Tim Blake Nelson is, of course, the star of the film. He plays Nick like the pathetic person he is. You want to sympathize with him since of how much he has lost. But you just can’t because of his overall demeanor and treatment of anyone who doesn’t look like him. Also, here’s a fun fact: Tim’s maternal grandparents escaped the Nazis shortly before Adolf Hitler began World War II. Tim starred in a show called “Watchmen,” which prominently featured neo-Nazis. And in “Lot 36,” he is facing a demon summoned by Nazis. Make of that what you will. Demetrius Grosse, as Tim’s voice of reason, is solid. Martha Burns delivers a very mysterious performance in that short screen time. Then we have two horror genre veterans, Elpidia Carrillo and Sebastian Roché, playing Amelia (Anna from “Predator”) and Roland (Balthazar in “Supernatural” and Mikael in “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Originals”), respectively. Both of them are splendid, with Carrillo getting to have the last laugh in “Lot 36.” Why? Well, for that, we’ve got to get into spoilers.
Major Spoilers Ahead.
‘Lot 36’ Ending Explained – What Did Nick and Roland Find In The Storage Unit?
As mentioned before, information regarding the final reveal is peppered throughout the short film. We see the old man chopping up some kind of rodent. There’s the VHS tape of the old man hopping around his strange unit before getting in there and after coming out of it. There are also pictures of Nazis in one of the albums in the storage unit. But the most damning evidence that whatever is in that unit is pure evil comes from the séance table, which has a pentagram drawn on it. While examining the artifact, Agatha finds a secret button on it, which opens up a drawer. And in it are three books titled: “Liber Primus, Daemonia,” “Liber Secundus, Symvolia,” and “Liber Tertius, Perilipsi.” Roland informs Nick that there’s a fourth book (“Liber Quartus, Sacramentum”), which is the rarest, most desirable, and legendary one because it burns down completely after a successful transaction with a demon (which can be trapped in a human body). The book remains intact if the demon is betrayed and the transaction is incomplete.
Assuming that the book is somewhere in the storage unit, Nick and Roland drive over to the facility. On their way, Roland talks about the old man and his family and how they emigrated from Germany with a lot of money after helping the Nazis. He says that the man was truly sick and depraved as he gambled his fortune away and destroyed his entire family by invoking an entity to occupy his sister, Dottie Wolmar. While looking through the storage unit, Nick finds a pathway to a tunnel that leads the two of them to a room. And on that room’s floor, they come across a withered body whose face has been hollowed out to make way for something tentacled that’s writhing inside it. Since the fourth book is on the other side of the room’s entrance, Nick decides to get it, even though Roland forbids him from doing so. This breaks the pentagram drawn on the floor and awakens the demon residing in Dottie’s body. It goes for Roland first, and then he hunts down Nick and eats him alive.
During Nick’s final moments, he gets what he deserves while expecting something that he hasn’t offered to his fellow citizens. He acts in a racist way towards Amelia – even though she simply asked him to let her go through her unit, which she lost to him due to a miscommunication – and then he wants her to bail her out of the storage facility because a monster is after him. That’s not how things work. Or at least, that’s not how the world should work. It’s morally correct to be an empath. But you should be empathetic towards people who deserve it. Racists like Nick do not fall into that category. To be honest, not a single chest-thumping patriot who thinks that they can hate immigrants all they want (while being immigrants themselves) and then have access to all the help they want does not fall into that category. You earn the respect you need, which is something that you don’t get by killing civilians in a foreign country because your President told you to do so. Clear and simple.
The reason why Roland keeps reiterating that the old man was a hollow person who wasted away his life and money is because Navarro, del Toro, and Corrado want to draw parallels between him and Nick. Although much isn’t known about Nick, during his altercation with Eddie, it becomes apparent that whatever he did after coming back from the war led to his breakup with his wife and plunged him into debt. And now he spends his time being hateful to people. But more than his hate, it’s his greed that causes his demise. He needed $12,000. He was getting $10,000 from his latest haul. All he needed was $2000 more to pay off his debt. However, the sound of $300,000 turned his greediness all the way up to eleven. When that was coupled with his racism and his inability to follow Roland’s instructions – who evidently knows more about demonology than Nick – and an incoming monster, death was pretty much inevitable. Hence, the moral of the story is: don’t be a racist, don’t be greedy, and maybe you’ll not be killed by a demon trapped in a storage unit.
See More: What Was The Relationship Between The Wolmar Family And The Demon In ‘Cabinet Of Curiosities’ Episode 1?