Like any omnibus film, the Christophe Jankovic and Valerie Schermann-produced French collection of creepy, crawly cartoon shorts, Fear(s) of the Dark, succeeds on the strength of its best components. Though it seems that in animation it's easier to convey an "idea" of fear to an audience than impart in the viewer fear itself, the film nevertheless pleasantly lodges in the brain. A persuasive showcase for a handful of contemporary animators, Fear(s) is comprised of mostly beautifully designed segments which get exponentially better as the film continues, going deeper and deeper into an ever darkening rabbit hole. Like the famed sixties compilation Spirits of the Dead, which wisely saved Fellini's astonishing Toby Dammit for its just-desserts course, Fear(s) of the Dark sends us out on a high, low note.
Animation's ability to unsettle has been superbly exploited over the past century in everything from the brilliant "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in Fantasia to the loopy, otherworldly beasties Max Fleischer would devise to chase poor Betty Boop (not scary? Try watching a "Fleischer Folio" at 2 a.m. with the lights out). Though I've yet to see any moving illustrations that have equaled in terror the despairing drawings done by Stephen Gammell in the "children's" series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (those pictures that look splattered across the page with black blood still haunt many of us from grade-school), the ability to so dramatically employ shadow and light and conjure any horrific bit of imagination leaves the possibilities for animated terror wide open.
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