Six graphic artists present their visions of terror in “Fear(s) of The Dark,” an omnibus of black-and-white animation with a couple exceptionally clever episodes tied together by an unnecessary recurring monologue. While the segments generate about as much genuine fear as a Charles Addams cartoon, each displays a fertile imagination influenced by a breathtaking range of sources, from Japanese anime (in the case of Marie Caillou) to Felix Vallotton (Richard McGuire). Prospects are best at home, but cult status could accrue abroad, especially on ancillary.
Pic is the brainchild of maverick graphic design gallery/studio Prima Linea, produced by the same team as last year’s animated fairy tale “U.” Using both 2-D and 3-D animation, all in rich black-and-white with subtle color tonalities, “Fear(s)” opens with a skeletal 18th-century marquis and his hounds of hell, beautifully drawn by Blutch with a deeply textured mass of nervous strokes and shadings that lend the tale a pulsating air.
Phantasmagoric episode is split into sections that are sandwiched between the others, like the monologue. Latter is accompanied by Pierre di Sciullo’s geometric patterns and voiced by Nicole Garcia as she breathlessly recites everything she’s frightened of, from eating worms to being “irredeemably bourgeois.”
Charles Burns’ solidly drawn segment, with an animation style deliberately stiff in movement, is the most story-driven of the six, recounting the disturbing tale of an insect lodging itself in the body of Laura (Aure Atika), who then goes on to brutalize her b.f., Eric (Guillaume Depardieu). Lorenzo Mattotti’s creepy story displays impressive draftsmanship, while Caillou’s Japanese tale, about a girl (Louisa Pili) haunted by a samurai ghost, plays like a cross between Tarantino-esque bloodlust and a “South Park” episode.
Best of all is McGuire’s extraordinary use of blackouts and patterns, injecting originality not just into the old haunted-house formula, but also animation style. A solitary candle illuminates details of a face against an entire screen of black, and a woman in a floral-print dress puts a spider into a pot of tea. A brilliant sequence of a man smothering flaming pages scattered from the fireplace is especially inspired.
Unquestionably geared toward adults, pic can’t shake the feeling of a concept film with little to hold it together, other than as a showcase for a group of talented artists; the monologue, meant as connective tissue, injects an unwelcome note of pretension and silliness. Some episodes have dialogue, others make the most of grunts and mumbles, while all use a variety of musical styles, from original compositions to snippets of Manuel de Falla sung by Conchita Supervia. French opening is skedded for Feb. 13 — a Wednesday.