Directed By: Blutch, Charles Burns, et al
Starring: Aure Atika, Guillaume Depardieu, Nicole Garcia
Tag line: "Don't come alone!"
Trivia: This movie premiered at the 2007 Roma Film Festival
A horror anthology of sorts, Fear(s) of the Dark is a collection of five black and white animated shorts, each focusing on a different story about fear. In the first, an elderly aristocrat takes his ferocious dogs for a walk, stopping occasionally to allow them to attack innocent bystanders. This is followed by a film about a withdrawn young bug collector who falls in love with the girl of his dreams, only to discover she’s not the woman he thought she was.
The third segment takes us to Japan, where a school girl is forced to experience a recurring nightmare in which she’s haunted by the spirit of an ancient Samurai. The French countryside is the setting for the fourth story, about a young boy who meets a mysterious orphan around the same time that a series of violent attacks break out in the area. Rounding out the shorts is one where a muscular man, looking for shelter in a raging blizzard, breaks into an isolated house, only to discover he may not be entirely alone. Each of these sequences is joined together by some ever-changing geometric patterns, during which a woman (off-screen) lists the many things that give her the willies.
Fear(s) of the Dark feels like a graphic novel in motion, which makes sense when you consider the creative minds behind it. The opening segment with the old man and his dogs was directed by an artist named Blutch, whose comics have appeared in a number of French publications over the years. The animation in this sequence is a bit harsher, and more unpolished than the rest, but it fits the narrative perfectly.
Of the remaining segments, the third (with the Japanese girl and her ghostly nightmare) and the fifth (a man exploring a darkened house) are the most ambitious. The third was directed by Marie Caillou, a graphic designer and illustrator who has worked on both comics and children’s books. In her segment, Ms. Caillou creates two unique worlds, reality and dreams, then blurs the line between them. The final short, by illustrator / comic book artist Richard McGuire, uses darkness to great effect, and is the most successful of the bunch when it comes to making our skin crawl (at several intervals, we notice the man is being followed, something he himself is unaware of).
In the end, though, Fear(s) of the Dark works better as an artistic experiment than it does a horror movie. In each instance, the animation is superb, as are the shorts themselves. But with the exception of the last tale (and even then, only in spurts), the horror element just isn’t there. That’s not to say the stories aren’t engaging (they certainly are), and I do recommend the movie as a whole. But if it is chills and thrills you’re after, the dream-like imagery that populates Fear(s) of the Dark isn’t going to invade your nightmares anytime soon.