The “Cabinet of Curiosities,” also known as the “Wonderroom,” is generally referred to as a collection of rare inventions or discoveries from around the world. Guillermo del Toro and the finest eight directors have collaborated on the production of Netflix’s horror anthology series named after this ancient cabinet and therefore bring to screen some really spine-chilling horror films. The majority of the short films in the series are based on several short stories by some of the most influential writers, like H. P. Lovecraft, Henry Kutter, and others, but some of the episodes are written by del Toro himself. So, let’s look at the first episode, “Lot 36,” written by del Toro and directed by Regina Corrado.
The first episode, “Lot 36,” tells a story of human greed, toxic traits, and the old-age human connection with demons. The plot centers on a man named Nick Appleton, who won an auction and purchased storage unit number 36, which was filled with mysterious antiques and precious things. The previous owner of the unit had just passed away, and thus his valuables were up for sale as he did not have any relatives. Nick Appleton, who was desperate to buy the unit, was unaware of the mysterious past of the owner and his possessions. Let’s find out what evil he discovers inside.
What Was The Relationship Between The Wolmar Family, Nazism, and The Demonic Cult?
The previous owner of all those possessions was a mysterious guy. At the very beginning of the episode, we see him slicing the flesh of a fish-like creature that seems like a meal for a beast. In this case, the one who was given this food was not any beast but a demonic entity, which was seen at the end of the episode. When the owner was cutting the flesh, the head of the fish fell to the ground. Since it was an offering for a demon, the owner made an error that he had to pay for with his own life.
We also see a photo frame above his TV showing a woman. This woman was Dottie Wolmar, the old man’s sister, whom he used as a vessel to summon the demonic entity. This process was known as “transaction,” which was later mentioned by Roland, a man who was interested in buying the occult items from Nick Appleton. However, the transaction was not completed as the owner had died.
The owner and his sister belonged to the Wolmar family. The Wolmar family has been associated with the German Nazi forces and supplied them with tanks in Europe. They were extremely wealthy and achieved everything via running a demonic cult where they used to summon evil entities. The relationship between Nazism and Satanism is not something new. We are aware of several demonic cults led by Nazis since 1940; one of these is the Order of Nine Angles (ONA), which essentially supports neo-Nazi groups.
In del Toro’s “Lot 36,” the Wolmar family might be inspired by these cults. The previous owner of the storage unit, the old man, was maintaining the family’s legacy. He was seen coming to Unit 36 in the CCTV footage every day, and his motives were explained later in the film, as we were told that he used to make a daily visit to feed the demon. In short, he was preparing the process of “transaction,” which was disclosed at the end of the episode.
In the unit’s secret passage, he captured his sister and used her as a vessel for the monster. As a member of a Nazi family, he was also greedy for power. Roland said that he was always hungry and often called on the devil because he might have desired more and more to rule the world. The story did not mention the demon they were summoning. Though it appears more like an H.P. Lovecraftian monster, Cthulhu with tentacles, or it might be the Sephet monster, from which del Toro’s “Lot 36” demon might have gotten its inspiration.
What Was the Significance Of The Fourth Book? Who Was Roland?
Nick Appleton found two crafted chairs, a candelabra, and a séance table inside unit 36. He immediately rushed to Agatha’s library, where Agatha called her contact, named Roland. Roland was crazy about those satanic rituals and the pentagram table. Three books, “Liber Primus: Daemonia,” “Liber Secundus: Symvolia,” and “Liber Tertius: Perilipsi,” came out of this seance table, which was very rare and precious. Roland asserted that the fourth book, “Liber Quartus Sacramentum,” was missing.
This book was the most valuable and rarest of all, since it was required for the final transaction. The transaction was a sacrifice that was made in order to bind the demon to the earth. If the demon fully accepts this sacrifice, the transaction is completed, and the fourth book burns itself. Here Liber Quartus means “the fourth book” but the meaning of ‘Sacramentum,’ might be mistaken for a Christian ritual, which was not the case at all. In this context, sacramentum may refer to an “oath.”
Roland and Nick finally found the book and Dottie’s corpse lying amid a pentagram. She was being eaten by the demon. Nick rushed to get the book, and in his ignorance broke the pentagram because of which the demon was awakened. The devil took a monstrous shape while inhabiting Dottie’s body as a vessel. It completely engulfed Roland, who was standing in front of it. The fourth book also burned itself up to confirm that the transaction had been completed and that the demon was finally free to roam in the human world. Although Roland’s link to the Wolmar family remained unclear, he seemed to be more than just a willing customer. He was familiar with the long history of the Wolmar family. It’s possible that the reason for his eagerness to find Dottie Wolmar might be a previous relationship between them. Or Roland might be a secret member of this Nazi cult who came to sacrifice himself to the demon to complete the transaction.
How Did Greed Become the Ultimate Demon in “Lot 36”?
Greed and lust ultimately turned out to be the sinister elements in “Lot 36.” The protagonist of the story, Nick Appleton, acts quite disdainfully toward Eddie, the owner of the units. When Amelia, a former renter of one of the units, asked Nick politely for the old photos and letters kept there, Nick misbehaved with her. He was inhuman towards other races and women as well. Nick rushed to Agatha to sell those antiques and valuable items, but the client, Roland, offered him $300,000 in return for the fourth book. The prospect of money gave Nick such an adrenaline boost that he went on to confront the supernatural entity without thinking about its consequences. As Roland and Nick were on their way to Unit 36, Roland told Nick that the old guy, the former owner, was so greedy and hungry for power that he even sacrificed his own sister. When Nick stated that God had him now, Roland replied that there was no guarantee that he had been taken by God. It could be God’s adversary who took his life. Here, Roland was clearly referring to Satan, but he said in an ironic way that these demonic and satanic powers are all inside human beings. They whisper negative things into our ears and provoke the darkness within us. Even when the two finally entered the hidden passage, Roland warned Nick that this demonic force could attack him if it recognized the darkness within him. Nick did not even take Roland’s warnings seriously. Nick believed in God, but he was unable to accept the possibility of evil powers in the world. Similarly, he was not even aware of how evil his own behavior was.
Finally, when Nick, fascinated by the reward, crosses the pentagram to get his hands on the fourth book, the demon recognizes his inner greed and arrogance. So, it immediately woke up and attacked them. Nick managed to escape at the last minute, but Amelia did not open the gate and took revenge on him. Nick might have survived if he had previously sympathized with Amelia, but because of his toxicity, he got captured, and the demon devoured his soul. In fact, the previous owner, who belonged to the Wolmar family, fueled this evil entity with his own hatred and greed. Likewise, Nick’s endless greed and inhumanity intrigued the demon. Guillermo del Toro used this vile demon as a representation of those evil existences that dwell deep inside us and make us do evil things. If we can beat them with our positivity, we will survive; if not, we will perish like Nick Appleton.
Del Toro’s “Lot 36” is a remarkable story that makes us privy to the demons that reside inside humans. The horrors of extreme movements like Nazism and their diabolical actions are reflected in this story. Even among those who believed in God, there were people like Nick Appleton who were incapable of treating others with the kindness and respect they deserved. In the same way that God symbolizes inner positivity, this monster in Guillermo del Toro’s story “Lot 36” represents the inner demonic traits of human beings.