Fear(s) of the Dark Directed by: Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti, Richard McGuire Cast: uncredited Time: 1hr 25 mins Rating: Not yet rated
Fear(s) of the Dark is made up of a series of black-and-white animation sequences depicting the horror of the unknown. One is about a college student whose childhood obsession with insects comes back to bite him (literally). Another short centers on a Japanese girl forced to relive her nightmares until they actually come true. The final story is about a man who stumbles on the wrong wayward house in a snowstorm, and the terrors he finds there. Each story is strung together by abstract narration, and the chilling images of a man releasing his vicious dogs to do his bidding.
Who’s It For?
It isn't a Walt Disney Pictures production, so there is virtually no appeal for children. It's also not for people who demand a clear story line. Connecting each story, and figuring out each story's layered meaning, may prove too much work for many.
Without looking too far into it, I expected something dark and twisted, which is usually a good thing for me. What I didn't expect was just how dense its message actually is ... allegedly. I still haven't figured it out.
Ensemble: Though the voices aren't sufficiently credited, as an ensemble they were effective. All the voices were expressive and gelled well with their visual counterparts, which is more of a victory than many claim credit for. Score: 8/10
In some of the stories, there was no talking at all. In others, rich narration helped fill out the sometimes abstract plot. Since all the stories deal with such off-the-wall subject matter, the ones with lots of exposition and a discernible plot were the easiest to follow and respond to.
Sights & Sounds:
Though confusing at times, Fear(s) of the Darkwas never anything short of gorgeous. Though it is entirely black-and-white, it uses a variety of animation techniques to tell the stories; from rich charcoal-like images to the simpler ( sometimes more expressive ) solid black-on-white and white-on-black lines. What helps truly sell the story and images is the film's soundtrack. It adds an edge of terror impossible to pull off visually, and gives it that extra sensory texture that animation typically lacks.
The story of a man who, finding himself in an unknown house in the dead of a snowstorm, uses only a candle to guide the exposition. The development of his discoveries, and the visuals that deliberately reveal only segments of any place at a given time, make this scene the most memorable.
Each story has its own ending of sorts. However, it's what finally happens in the frame story to the "devil" with the hell hounds, once he's finally released the last one, that is most resonating. It helps expand ideas on what can be done, and done well, with good old fashioned animation.
Umm ...What is this film trying to say? I usually can understand the "big picture" in movies, but with this one I'm still stumped. I can appreciate this album of horror stories, and even the the frame story that seems to tie them together. I just don't get how they relate. Anyone have any ideas?
Maybe, if only just to try and crack the code, another viewing would be warranted. There's a lot of great sounds and visuals that could stand up to even more than that.
Not unlike The Twilight Zone, Fear(s) of the Dark takes the "known" into the "unknown" and back again faster than desired at times; because it's animation, it's tough to get your bearings on reality to begin with. However, it is a fascinating example of modern noir, and for it to come in such an original package is remarkable. Ultimately, despite being esoteric to a fault at times, much enjoyment can still be gleaned from Fear(s) of the Dark. After all, horror doesn't need to speak a common language. When it's done well, it is a common language.
Final Score: 6/10