There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
The animated vignettes in Fear(s) of the Dark center on things that keep you up at night, which makes its Halloween release seem appropriate. But the six graphic artists who wrote and directed this French pastiche approached the idea with subtlety and open minds, and as a result it’s more artistically interesting than viscerally frightening, as Fitzgeraldian as it is chilling. Connecting the stories, for example, is a confession by an unseen woman about such fears as “mediocrity” or “being totally unaware politically” as black-and-white shapes morph, Rorschach-like. And the chapters themselves (also in black and white, except for an instance of blood red) are often based on real-life horrors from having a clingy, boil-your-bunny girlfriend to being the new kid at school who’s mocked because she lives in an alleged haunted house. This being the stuff of nightmares, however—sometimes literally, its characters waking up just to face some other weirdness—each story displays varying degrees of surrealism: Grasshopper caretakers, a geisha with six eyes, and a spider with a girl’s head are among the only-in-your-dreams images that appear, and some tales swirl and bend so you don’t quite know what’s real and what’s imagined. Still, despite its intention to make you squirm if never outright shriek, Fear(s) of the Dark is rarely goose-bumps-inducing and often rather dull. With six stories presented in 85 minutes, you’re just grasping the details of largely unnamed characters (one of whom is voiced by the recently deceased Guillaume Depardieu) and trying to follow their sometimes nonlinear plot turns when another tale begins, which makes it difficult to become engaged. You’ll more likely become entranced by the animation, with each artist’s style popping whether the images are drawn in simple, crisp lines or stormy, graphite-heavy blusters that barely leave any white on the screen. The exception is the film’s final chapter, a spectacular ghost story about a man wandering around an abandoned, electricity-free cabin. It plays inventively with light and shadow—and serves up a few scares, too.