A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night director Ana Lily Amirpour directs the fourth installment of Guillermo del Toro’s horror anthology series Cabinet of Curiosities, “The Outside.”
Kate Micucci plays Stacey Chapman, an outcast bank teller with a passion for taxidermy who is desperate to fit in with her colleagues at the bank. The episode portrays Stacey as the “ugly duckling” to her co-worker’s “beautiful swans,” although really the other women are shown to be vain and obsessed with the latest plastic surgery operations and beauty products such as a lotion called Alo Glo.
When Stacey receives a pity invite to the company Christmas party, she thinks her luck might finally be changing. However, once there, it becomes clear that the other women have no genuine interest in getting to know Stacey, as they mostly ignore her completely. Stacey’s gift of a taxidermy duck to one of the women doesn’t go over well, but at least she leaves with an expensive gift: a box of Alo Glo products.
Seconds after slathering the Alo Glo all over her face and hands, Stacey starts having what looks like an allergic reaction to the formula. Her skin turns bright red, and her husband, Keith (Martin Starr), is immediately concerned with his wife’s appearance. Keith advises Stacey to be careful since she has sensitive skin.
Surprisingly, Keith is portrayed as one of the only voices of reason in “The Outside.” He consistently tries to build up Stacey’s self-esteem by praising her and acknowledging all of the traits he loves about her most. But Stacey doesn’t care about “inner beauty.” She wants to be beautiful on the outside and beloved by all. Keith’s kind words aren’t enough.
Unable to sleep due to the itchy rash, Stacey watches television in the middle of the night and sees a commercial for Alo Glo. The spokesman (Dan Stevens) starts communicating with her through the TV, telling her to trust him and trust in the product. Alo Glo takes time to start working, and he promises Stacey that the “new” version of herself is already inside her…beneath her skin.
Later, an entire box of Alo Glo shows up on the Chapman’s doorstep, and Stacey continues using the lotion even as her skin worsens and starts peeling. In one particularly eerie scene, the Alo Glo starts bubbling over the sides of the box and manifests into a human-like figure entirely made of lotion. When Stacey sees it lurking in the basement, she hugs the being and kisses it, slathering her entire body with Alo Glo.
Cabinet of Curiosities episode 4: What happens to Stacey in the end?
When Keith sees that Stacey is still using the lotion despite its adverse effect on her skin, he demands she stop and implores her to see how perfect she is already without the lotion. Believing that her husband is trying to hold her back and doesn’t understand her, Stacey stabs him in the forehead with a scalpel and then murders him with a hatchet. Putting her taxidermy skills to use, Stacey stuffs her husband and sets him up in the living room.
Once Keith is out of her hair, Stacey gives herself over completely to the Alo Glo, sinking into a bathtub full of the lotion until she’s completely immersed from head to toe. Emerging from the tub covered in the cream, Stacey sheds her skin and discovers that the “new” skin is flawless. Her transformation is complete.
Adorned with makeup and a new haircut, Stacey returns to the bank a new woman, virtually unrecognizable from the person she used to be. Now that she looks just as “beautiful” as the other women, they’re all eager to talk to her, be close to her, and become her friend. Stacey finally has everything she ever wanted! Right? The episode ends with her staring straight at the camera and laughing/smiling for like two minutes, kind of like how the movie Pearl ends.
Overall, I enjoyed “The Outside,” but I felt like it didn’t go as far as it could have with its premise. I kept waiting for the episode to slip into David Cronenberg territory and channel The Fly—I wanted it to be grosser! It dances around the idea of “beauty is pain” and how harmful the beauty industry is, but I feel like “The Outside” doesn’t dig deep enough into its ideas.
That said, Amirpour is an excellent director, and Micucci is perfect in the role. I also loved the Fargo vibes present throughout the installment.
Cabinet of Curiosities episodes 1-6 are now streaming on Netflix.