a review by Elizabeth Vinton
Big thanks to Madman Entertainment for submitting Fears of the Dark for review!
Fear[s] of the dark is an anthology of short horror/suspense tales by some leading cartoonists and graphic artists done entirely in black and white. It is very arthouse in style, and all dialogue is in French.
The first segment by an artist called Blutch involves a rather shady looking man walking a set of four very aggressive hounds through the countryside, terrorizing the locals with his violent pets. It plays between the other short films. The artwork is very old fashioned pencil drawing, reminiscent of the early Disney films, but with more detail. The plot of the short film is grotesque and not very descriptive. I got the impression that there was some symbolism to be explored throughout the events that occur, but I am not certain and plan to research it. It seems to be set in the 1700s. There is one part of this film that was quite disgusting and confrontational, that still baffles me as to why it happened, and that put me off the piece somewhat (will not describe for spoilers). It is definitely one of the darker and stranger pieces of the movie.
Also scattered throughout the film are dialogues discussing different fears and anxieties about life in general, accompanied by very geometric, comic book style animations by an artist called Pierre di Sciullo. It is interesting, quirky, brooding, depressive and comical. At times it did clash with the main stories being told, and I think could have been left out without detracting from the film.
One of the four main tales is by Charles Burns, and is about a man lying in bed having awoken by a familiar pain and thinking back to his childhood, his fascination with insects and a strange love affair he had in college. The story was very much like something out of Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, quirky, weird and blackly humorous!
The second tale is by Marie Caillou and focuses on a Japanese school girl, who is bullied in horrifying ways at school, and is tormented by legends told of a samurai who haunts the forest where his body is buried, and where the paths lies that this young girl takes to get home. The animation is absolutely fantastic in this, and terribly creepy. The story is very bizarre and also flits between supernatural horror and science fiction. What is taking place is not really fully explained and I am still mulling over theories as to what happened!
The third main tale is by Lorenzo Mattotti and is one of the two stories I instantly fell in love with. It is a bittersweet look at a boy staying in rural France with his aunt and uncle. He befriends an orphan who has a very strange nature, seemingly knowledgeable and obsessed with the darker aspects of life. Tragic events start to happen in the town and it casts deep shadows on everything the protagonist knows about the world and human nature. This is a very beautifully animated , written and presented drama with a dream like quality that draws you in. It is worth buying this DVD for this tale alone!
The last tale is by Richard McGuire, and features amazing graphics that use the black and white aspect and the space of the screen in extremely clever ways creating a sense of unease. A man finds a large house in the middle of nowhere and enters to escape the blizzard he was journeying through. Finding it seemingly deserted, he explores and makes himself comfortable as best he can, but finds himself inside a living nightmare of paranoia. Visually stunning, I wholeheartedly recommend watching.
Fear[s] of the Dark was a wonderful collection of the odd, unsettling and the melancholy. It is worth watching for the visuals alone, although the stories are fantastic as well. If you are a fan of animation, comics, graphic novels, graphic art, especially of a darker nature you will enjoy this thoroughly. It stays with you long after it’s over.