7.4

Fear(s) of the Dark

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Fear(s) of the Dark

Release Date: Oct. 22 (limited)

Directors: Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti, Richard McGuire

Writers: Blutch, Charles Burns, Pierre Di Sciullo, Jerry Kramski, Richard McGuire, Michel Pirus, Romain Slocombe

Starring: Nicole Garcia, Guillaume Depardieu, Aure Atika

Studio/Running Time: IFC Films, 80 mins.


Anthology films are notoriously uneven, with participating directors often contradicting each other’s ideas as much as complementing them.France’s Fear(s) of the Dark is more unified than most, though, with its creators sticking to the topics of fear and nightmares and for once staying on the same page as each other.More immediately noticeable is its stylistic unity, the entire film composed basically from black-and-white animation.Since the directors are also some of the country’s finest comic artists and designers, the result is a visual (and also audio) tour de force that makes the palette feel less like limitation than a catalyst for innovation.

From a narrative standpoint, Fear(s)’ shorts are a little less astonishing.Their ambitions feel curbed due to length, with Marie Caillou’s stopping at the end seemingly just because that’s how much time she was given.Even the most impressive short, by Charles Burns, feels like it would equate to about 10 comic-book pages at the most.The concern throughout is on what the films look and feel like, best illustrated by Pierre di Sciullo’s completely abstract narration of a woman’s fears with geometric patterns matching up with what she’s saying.

Because of this aesthetic, the shorts aren’t traditional horror stories and don’t rely so much on literal fright as an overall feeling of dread.They come froma Twilight Zone brand of psychological horror, favoring last minute reveals over monster closets.By editing them together in a sort of collage order rather than one after the next, they create a fascinating tapestry of doubts and apprehensions that’s impressive in scope if not depth. That they are shorts is unfortunate, because the characters and situations are never particularly full-bodied, but given the time constraints, this would bedifficult for any writer to circumvent.

If Persepolis showed us how well French comics can be adapted to film, Fear(s) shows how wide and fascinating those adaptations can be.The best of it, in Blutch’s series on a horrible man and his even worse dogs, or in the somehow three-dimensional work by Charles Burns, is worth seeing for nothing but its wow-factor.But beyond this, the shorts’ focus on subjects infrequently delved into by films, and never in such wide-ranging fashion, makes it interesting enough even when the presentation wears off.It’s probably not the most frightening film of the year, but that’s because its monsters hit you in the head rather than the heart.