Fear(s) of the Dark

Fear(s) of the Dark is a French anthology of black and white animated horror short films.

Each of the shorts uses a different art animation style, and if you have seen anything like Halo Legends in the past, you will know what you are in for. Much like other film anthologies, the shorts vary in quality.

The film begins with a traditionally animated short that was reminiscent of the animation style of Fantastic Planet – a fantastic, surreal French Science Fiction animated feature.

After this short (which turns out to be interspersed between the other shorts) is a bizarre sequence akin to watching a Saul Bass styled credits sequence while a neurotic French woman recites all she is, was, and ever will be afraid of in your right ear. I do not know if there was an issue with my audio setup, or if it was intentionally balanced to the right channel, as the other shorts seemed to have no such issue. This short, too, was interspersed and served to act more as an intermission than anything.

A third short was a manga styled ghost story, that had the quality of a campfire story. Not particularly scary, but interesting in its imagery. Of all the animations, it was this one that stuck out, as it was the most washed out looking of the shorts. There were no deep blacks to be found. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as it feels like you’re watching the faded panels of an old manga come to life, but it did feel a little odd compared to the others.

Fourth came a short that had a similar look and style of animation to the first short. It concerned a man recounting a series of events during an early period of his life when an unknown creature was terrorising his town. It was quite well animated and was drenched in melancholy.

The shorts evoked different moods, ranging from melancholy to oppressive to sensual. Disappointingly, for a series of horror shorts, they weren’t particularly scary. The sole exception to this was the fifth and final short (my favourite) that follows an unfortunate man as he stumbles around an unfamiliar home in the dark. It is the closest to being chilling and makes perfect use of a deep inky blackness. In fact, for a majority of its run time, most of the screen is black, and the short uses outlines and quick flashes to suggest the sinister goings on in the house.

As can be expected in a series of shorts by different animators, the quality of sound design also varied. I’d say, once again, the Fifth short comes out on top with an amazingly dynamic soundscape and wonderfully ominous music. At one point the protagonist loses his shoe, and the difference in the sounds of his footsteps is amazingly realised. This level of attention to detail added immensely to the creepiness of the short. Sound is an incredibly important aspect of film, especially of horror films, and this short nailed it.

I’d say Fear(s) is worth watching if you are a fan of animation and would love to see some, at times gorgeous and mesmerising black and white animation. It works as a moody piece of experimental animation, but do not go in expecting any genuine scares. In that regard the anthology falls short.

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David Lynch’s DumbLand

I tried to subject my friends to it, they switched to Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters. That right there is a comment on how easy it is to sit through.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters is an infamously difficult to swallow film, seemingly content in its inane surreality, so for it to be easier to watch than something is a comment unto itself.

I have only ever seen one other Lynch product through to completion, Eraserhead, so I may not hold as much sway over you as others well versed in his ouvre. In fact, I attempted to watch Inland Empire, but I was scared away by its utterly alien presentation.

I can say, however, that DumbLand is a deliciously audacious exploration of the inanity and absurdity of suburban life. The protagonist (for he is no hero) is a crude, violent caricature of masculine impulsivity. He swears, farts and engages in sometimes disturbing acts of violence. His son is but a sketch of a child, wide eyed and foetus-like in his construction. The wife is a horrid scribble of a person who communicates solely in terrified murmurs and screeches.

Together, they are a portrait of suburban decay. Each episode, of which there are 8, is roughly 4 minutes long. Nothing much of objective interest happens in any of them (save the last), but through Lynch’s lens, the inanity of everyday existence is transmogrified into something surreal and nightmarish.

I can’t really recommend this series to everyone. It is purposefully obtuse in its presentation. Voices (all provided by Lynch) are distorted and uncomfortable to listen to, it is violent and vulgar, there is a lack of detail and the animation is laughably sparse at best. These qualities add to the charm, but they can also put people off.

All up, I enjoyed it, even though I feel the joke was on me all along.