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 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) hits with an all-star batting average. The best of the lot is Seattle-raised 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 Michael Pirus utilize it even more beautifully in their inescapable haunted-house tale, a chestnut rendered lyrical and abstract 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 existential fears—plays like an innocuous Agnès Varda parody.
Charles Burns shows us his dark(er) side.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., Oct. 31. Not rated. 80 minutes.