American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Ideally, a film should flow smoothly into the mind, with no elbows sticking out. From the time some months ago when I first heard of "Fear(s) of the Dark," I was annoyed by the "(s)." This is ridiculous, I know. Such a detail has nothing to do with the quality of a movie. But let me ask you: What does "(s)" do for you? Or "Peur(s) du noir" in French? Less than nothing? Yes.
Oh, well. The film is an anthology by six animators, it involves untitled shorts, punctuated by segments by the graphic artist Blutch featuring an aristocrat holding savage hounds straining at a leash. Each time a hound breaks free, it leaps upon the next story, and occasionally, a victim.
Some of the stories are pretty good, especially Charles Burns' tale involving a nasty and vaguely humanoid insect that burrows under the skin. The sight of the creature trapped in a jar is unsettling. The story reminded me of Guillermo del Toro's "Cronos" (2003), and indeed he is cited on the Web site as a champion of this film.
Richard McGuire has an effective haunted house story that reminded me a little of Ugetsu in the way it uses spirits who seem to possess the space the hero wanders into. Japanese echos stir also in a story by Marie Caillou, about a bug-eye young girl who is a student trapped in a nightmare.
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