A collection of animated tales all tied together with things that go bump in the night and other fearsome themes, Fear(s) Of The Dark is a hit-and-miss pastiche set apart by its black-and-white palette and the unique visions of its 10 “cutting-edge” graphic artists. Arthouse opening set in time for Halloween should generate some interest among enthusiasts of the form, but the mixed bag on display here lies somewhere between trick and treat. Expect middling box office action but a long seasonal life on DVD.
Broken into six different tales (all of which attempt to generate goose bumps), these stories are linked by a pointless monologue that just interferes with the mood being established. The segments and their joining monologue vary in quality and effectiveness, with the best of the lot being the Charles Burns super-creepy segment in which a bug immersed in the body of a woman (Aure Atika) causes her to attack her boyfriend (the late Guillaume Depardieu). Burns weaves similar themes of physical transformation and invasion into many of his disturbing comic strips so this segment should come as no surprise to his fans. Still, it’s by far the most accomplished segment in terms of story and execution. The stunning visuals found in New York graphic artist Richard McGuire’s mix of hand-drawn and computer-generated work is a close second. McGuire’s segment has particularly inventive images of solitary figures involved with spiders and fire against a stark black background. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense narratively, but it’s mesmerizing to watch.
A recurring sequence (which we see first at the opening) is striking for its intensity and blessed with originality by artist Christian Hincker, who goes by the handle Blutch. Other contributions include a weird and well drawn segment by Italian comic-strip designer Lorenzo Mattotti, and an imaginative tale about a girl spooked by the ghost of a samurai by Marie Caillou. Asian flavor is typical of Caillou’s previous work, much of which is heavily influenced by Japanese illustration. The fine hand of Japanese anime is alive and well here.
The patterned visual sequences which accompany the annoying and incessant Nicole Garcia narration in which she blathers on about her own fears and life frights (“I’m scared of grilled flying grasshoppers”) are nicely etched by famed graphic artist and typographer Pierre di Sciullo.
Overall, you have to give the film’s creators credit for trying something different even the whole of the experience doesn’t completely measure up to its ambitions. French production is mounted handsomely with nice sound work, including a variety of musical influences accompanying each segment.
For the more adventurous moviegoer in a Halloween mood (but looking for something a little more creative than the fifth installment of Saw ), this could be the one to see if expectations are kept in check.
Cast: Aure Atika, Arthur H. , Guillaume Depardieu, Nicole Garcia, Louisa Pili, Gil Alma
Directors: Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti and Richard McGuire
Screenplay by: Blutch, Charles Burns, Richard McGuire, Romain Slocombe, Pierre DiSciullo, Jerry Kramsky and Michel Pirus
Producers: Valerie Schermann and Christophe Jankovic
Running time: 80 min.
Release date: October 24 NY