Five-year-olds who tremble behind the sofa during Scooby-Doo reruns will tell you 'toons are scary. Conventional grown-up wisdom, though, says that horror and non-live-action go together as messily as blood on a cream carpet. Apart from the odd exception, like Perfect Blue or Corpse Bride, animation rarely delivers the requisite genre chills, its abstract worlds too divorced from reality to send proper shivers down the spine.
Bollocks to all that, say the animators behind French frightener Fear(s) Of The Dark, an omnibus of six horror shorts. Shot in stark blacks and whites – there's just one single swathe of bright red claret splashed on the screen – it draws real menace from its moody visuals and a merciless sense of terrible things happening to innocent people: a woman helps insects turn her boyfriend into a host, a rakish aristocrat sets his hounds loose on passing villagers and an Asian kid is haunted by ghost girls in a cheeky J-horror homage.
Much of the creepiness here comes from the artistic licence granted by the animated format. Each director delves into the shadowy corners of the id where nightmares lurk without having to worry about unconvincing special effects or hammy acting.
Bluth's haunting woman/dog section aside, ironically, the pick of the crop are both helmed by Americans. Richard McGuire's haunted-house story is a dialogue-free shadow play in which patches of the pitch-black screen are illuminated by flickering candlelight.
Meanwhile Charles Burn, the artist behind Fincher's favourite graphic novel Black Hole, turns in a body-horror love story full of sexual tension and insect mandibles. Although not all the segments gel – witness the droningly pretentious monologue illustrated by Pierre di Sciullo – the overriding sense of dread is refreshingly scary. Don't fear the Reaper, just the animator…