Fear(s) of the Dark
While some may snicker at “graphic novel” as a term for comic books that take themselves too seriously, the French analogue — bande dessinée (or “drawn strip”) — denotes a medium sophisticated enough to be hailed as the ninth art. Embracing the cult spirit of 1981’s sci-fantasy omnibus Heavy Metal (coincidentally adapted from a magazine with French roots), this animated Franco-horror anthology is hardly child’s play but a classy interpretation of the eerie dreads hiding in the minds of 10 international graphic artists, all working in ravishing black and white. Though multi-director projects are patchy by definition, Fear(s) of the Dark hits with an all-star batting average. The best of the lot is Charles Burns’ segment — a crisp, creepy, Cronenbergian homage to EC Horror about a virginal science nerd (voiced by the late Guillaume Depardieu) who falls prey to a bombshell with an entomological revelation. While Burns works in high-contrast monochrome, Richard McGuire and Michel Pirus beautifully render their haunted-house tale through wordless storytelling and a white-on-black canvas. Samurai ghosts, 18th-century demon dogs and a childhood remembrance also figure into the film, each entertaining if not particularly scary, while the single sore thumb — a recurring bit in which contorting polygons dance to a woman’s monologue of her sociopolitical fears — plays like an innocuous Agnès Varda parody.