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Fear(s) Of The Dark
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by Jay Seaver

"Not always scary, but usually at least interesting."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: Horror and animation are natural fits for anthology films - horror because too much familiarity with a story can leave the audience unafraid by the end, animation because it can allow for amazingly different styles to be showcased. "Peur(s) du Noir" goes to an international group of print cartoonists for its stories, and while it's kind of a mixed bag, there certainly are some gems in this black-and-white packages.

We start out with French cartoonist Blutch, who gives us a series of episodes spread throughout the film of an aristocrat leading a group of wolves around only to have them slip their leads, one by one, with ghastly results. The artwork is very nice, looking like charcoal pencils come to life, and the attacks of the wolves remain shocking and brutal all the way to the end. The bits are rife with symbolism - the wolves' master starts out appalled by the first attack but is gleefully loosing them on innocent victims later on. The end is pretty much the expected one, and might have felt like a fizzle if not for it's viciousness.

Next up is American Charles Burns, whose art style is recognizable even from only seeing the cover to Black Hole. He gives us a tale of Eric, who as a boy was fascinated by insects and other creepy crawly things. One day he finds a peculiarly intelligent-seeming specimin that escapes its jar hidden under his bed. Years later, at college, the introverted young man meets a beautiful young woman, but she changes after getting some sort of weird cut while sleeping on that same bed with him. Burns and company create a creepy scenario, but the animation is kind of hit and miss - the very obviously computer-generated recreation of Burns's style works great for insects, but is kind of unnerving in a bad way with people.

Marie Caillou presents two stories in one: Young Sakoku is in a psychiatric ward, tortured by a doctor who gives her injections to make sure she sleeps long enough to get to the end of her terrible dreams, which force her to recall her time in a new school when the other students tormented her - and pointed out that her house abutted a cemetary said to be haunted by an angry samurai. There is, of course, a Japanese influence to her visuals, though it looks nothing like popular anime, and it features some of the creepiest monsters in the picture, and the ending does a nice job of suggesting (though not for certain) just why she's in the mental ward.

Italy's Lorenzo Mattotti tells us a reminiscence about a town where people go missing until a local gamekeeper comes out to hunt the beast down. Though it features strikingly beautiful artwork - it's got a very smooth three-dimensionality that never looks artificial like Burns's - it's also probably the least tense in the entire picture.

(Aside, that is, from the recurring bits by Pierre Di Sciullo, where abstract black and white shapes play over the sound of a woman discussing her own fears. Actually, not fears - neuroses. They do a decent enough job of serving as palate-cleansers between segments, I guess.)

The last act is perhaps my favorite - Richard McGuire tells us a story of a man who finds shelter from a blizzard in a dark cabin. Though all the bits have been black and white, McGuire uses the starkest division, with very few grays; we see bits of white against a sea of black (or vice versa). Comedy gradually gives way to creepier things, until we're jumping at every noise from every dark corner just like the man on screen.

Like most anthology films, "Peur(s) du Noir" is a bit uneven, but its best bits come out well ahead of the ones that are merely so-so, and it's well worth a look if you're a fan of the work of any of the artists involved.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17624&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/08/08 11:12:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2008 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2008 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/29/08 tiffany pettey didnt want to see this but i am glad i did might watch it again or even bu it 4 stars
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  22-Oct-2008 (NR)
  DVD: 27-Oct-2009



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