Fear(s) of the Dark (Peur(s) du Noir)

Six directors give their views on one of our man’s greatest fears in the black and white short film compendium, “Fear(s) of the Dark.”

Laura's Review: B

In the black and white animated French collection "Fear(s) of the Dark," five intriguing tales of terror are connected by a boring reverie of Bourgeois insecurities that have nothing frightening about them. But while Pierre Di Sciullo's female voice indulging in thoughts of unpleasant dinners and political worries accompanied by ever changing graphics keeps temporarily derailing the project, the other five films range from average to masterful, the best saved for last. In a gray landscape consisting of swirling, cross-hatched line, a bewigged gentleman in a tricorner hat and frock coat strains to maintain four large, black, snarling dogs and loses one with a madman's glee in each of four segments. Graphic artist Blutch has a unique imagination and haunting visual style. B+ Charles Burns uses a deceptively simple animation style to tell the tale of a shy young man who is haunted by a praying mantis he catches in a jar as a specimen. In this tale, which recalls a sexual take on the "Night Gallery" earwig episode, he meets a young woman who is unnaturally aggressive. After sleeping with her on their very first date, he discovers a would near her wrist that has a vaginal appearance... Burns is adept at creating interesting texture (the shine of a woman's hair, for example) and using light and shadow for disturbing effect within his otherwise flat looking world. B Marie Caillou gives us a Japanese anime of a young girl tormented by schoolmates and kept deep within a nightmare by a creepy looking doctor brandishing a hypo. Some of Caillou's images are disturbing, but her story lacks the logic even of a dream. C+ In a moodily rendered piece of pixillated shadow and light, Lorenzo Mattotti tells the childhood recollection of disturbing disappearances in the countryside. Is the friend who knows so much a suspect? The film's final images, in which the beast is immortalized, are a great bit of folklore. B Richard McGuire delivers the coup de grace, a masterpiece of black and white animation and the best exploration of the omnibus's theme. A man comes through blinding snow and enters a darkened, unfamiliar home. He feels his way to a fireplace which provides heat and light. He makes his way about with a candle, its movement spotlighting a hovering circle of vision within the screen. An old photo album provides the house's history and from the first sight of an unhappy little girl, we know our unwitting guest is in for trouble. McGuire provides gasps of pleasure as he represents things like an empty rolling bottle with just a flashing bit of white on a dark background, a label turning round and round. A snowglobe represents the man's present circumstance and foreshadows his eventual imprisonment. The ending is a kicker. A "Fear(s) of the Dark" is an uneven experience in horror, but the animation is always engaging and that final tale is a work of art.

Robin has not finished his review of this film.

Robin's Review: NYR