Dark Stories Movie Review
Written by Rachel Knightley
Released by Kabotine
Written and directed by François Descraques, Guillaume Lubrano.
2019, 97 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest UK Premiere on 31st August 2020
Kristanna Loken as Christine
Michelle Ryan as Carrie
Dominique Pinon as Jean Luc
Tiphaine Daviot as Audrey
If you like your storylines deliciously scary and delightfully creative, this new bilingual anthology of linking tales is going to be an irresistible find. The ideas that have gone into each self-contained horror story, along with the framing narrative which itself speaks to each of the individual tales, are written, performed and directed with spark, humour and attention to detail with believable monstrousness from everyday humanity and creative new twists on monsters from popular culture and mythology. Expect jumpscares and slow, creepy reveals in equal measure, with French and English dialogue woven together with the same effortless finesse as the worlds of humanity and nastier things beyond that collide in every tale’s twist.
Picking out highlights, the art gallery where the paintings seem to be coming to life – or is something living inside them hungry for life? – takes some beating. The ghouls of the art world, both the monsters inside the pictures and the busily aggressive humans that curate them and are too busy to notice how they treat those around them, so that it takes someone in their care being eaten alive in plain sight to get their attention. If you ever wondered what it would look like for something made of paint or ink to swallow a human, this really feels like the answer. Great graphics that tell the story rather than overshadow it. Particular kudos also goes to the zombie who plays straight man to the selfie-taking doctor. Their double act begins when the doctor discovers him post-postmortem, freshly awake and having climbed out of his drawer, trying to tape himself back together. There’s also plenty of social comedy horror, particularly when a female friend thinks she is being haunted by a jinn so seeks help from the old university friend whose family have them in their culture – and while she sees her flat as safe place, he sees a shag excuse. What’s so funny and so scary is how believably the invisible monsters – those over our shoulder and those inside ourselves – form part of the action.
A signature style the framing device sets up is how instantly and articulately we ingest the information and sense of world to feel present and involved with the characters. Another is enjoyment in fulfilling our expectations of familiar tropes and letting us enjoy them, combined with the stories’ own original twists. Nowhere is this clearer than the relationship between competent, loving and busy mum and sleeping teenage son of the framing story. Interrupted by a delivery of an inanimate doll that turns out to be not so inanimate, the mother goes to lock it in the shed before – you guessed it – it becomes the other way around. The conceit of the Arabian Nights style stories to save the narrator makes sense of their being located in town and country, rich and poor, but also brings in human redemption – or not – being each other, the power of belief and noticing other people is where what saving grace there is comes from. Each vignette is part of the eventual funny, scary and satisfying conclusion with a twist that, while not unpredictable, is deeply satisfying. A refreshing use of nudity feeding plot and comedy ¬– and almost exclusively male – is another refreshing change.
While this isn’t cower-in-your-seat terror, anyone who truly enjoys horror is going to be hard-pushed not to love the originality of story, image and voice, which comes across in writing, directorial style, acting and in the blends of French and English dialogue and digital and live action. Haunting stories, shiny production values, and sharp scripts with each beat fully invested in, Dark Stories is exactly what it sets out to be.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.