With positive reviews from Guillermo del Toro of all authorities, this black & white animated feature is composed of four main shorts, with two separated pieces filling out the space inbetween each 'main' feature. The four main pieces are short ghost / horror stories, and I say ghost story because though they don't all have ghosts, the narrative style is similar to that of the classic ghost story - less pure horror more un-nerving, building dread. The film was unfortunately marketed towards a horror crowd raised on 'torture porn' and therefore fared rather badly with audiences, despite positive critical response.
Of the four main tales, the final two are by far the strongest, one being a sort of monster / werewolf-esque story, with the protagonist's missing friend being the chief suspects of brutal countryside slayings. The animation in this quarter is excellent, pencil-crayon lines giving the proceedings a slightly un-nerving, vibrating quality and this part has a truly chilling moment whereupon the protagonist wakes in the night and, looking over at the window, sees the blurred sillouette of someone looking back in at him. The effect is superbly creepy.
The second of the two strong tales, and the final one of the film, concerns a man caught in a blizzard seeking shelter in what he believes to be an abandoned house, with excellent, quick glimpses of a ghost following him through the house caught in a door mirror and the pendulum of a swinging lamp.
The other two features aren't quite so effective, the first an interesting but poorly executed tale of a shy college student who falls prey to a powerful woman, later revealed as a mutant with praying mantis-esque features, leading an entourage of giant bugs. The bugs are giant versions of one the protagonist catches as a boy and later loses under his bed, the idea being that the insect infected/mutated the girl.
The second story of a Japanese schoolgirl tormented by nightmares and, upon waking, forced back into them by a demonic, needle-wielding doctor, has some promising ideas and a very original dream sequence but is too inconsistant and ultimately, not particularly spooky.
The two split features which divide up the film are at completly opposite ends of the spectrum. One, featuring a skeletal faced, mysterious man, setting his roving pack of dogs on passers by before finally on himself, while featuring strong, sketchy animation, is completly lacking in narrative. No motive is given and it quickly dissolves into nonsense.
The other split feature however, is the most unusual of the film, essentially a spoken interview with one woman listing various personal fears, the majority of these being non-supernatural, thereby providing the other side of the coin. Throughout the dialogue there is a variety of constantly changing and morphing black and white patterns swirling around on screen, which, along with there being no music, creates a very stark, calm contrast to the main tales.
While featuring some excellent animation and a suitably creepy score, this chiller anthology is let down by a poor first half and the inconsistancy never manages to balance itself back out again.
6 / 10
6 / 10