★★★★ out of ★★★★★
This French offering is one of the better horror anthologies you are likely to see this year.
Directed by François Descraques and Guillame Lubrano.
Originally a French television series that has been compiled into an anthology film, Dark Stories (2019) is a fine collection of horror tales. The wraparound concerns a mother (Kristanna Loken) trying to divert a deadly animated ventriloquist dummy’s (voiced by Scott Thrun) attention from her son, who is sleeping upstairs. She does so by regaling the eager doll with five tales of terror.
Unlike most horror portmanteau films that share several creative contributors, Dark Stories was codirected and cowritten by only two filmmakers, François Descraques and Guillame Lubrano. The two effortlessly weave between serious horror tales and comedic ones, without a dud in the bunch.
Lubrano starts things off with three segments. The darkly humorous “Le festin des goules” (“The Ghoul Feast”) concerns an art museum curator and a night watchman in a museum where paintings begin coming to life and eating people. “Le Parc” (“The Park”) is much more serious in tone, as a young woman jogger falls asleep in the park and wakes up to both supernatural and human terrors. “Mort mais vivant” (“Dead but Alive”) serves up both horror comedy and action horror as a man comes back to life in a morgue, and he and the mortician on duty test out the former’s new zombie powers. The story takes on a slightly more serious bent as the resurrected man goes on a mission of vengeance.
Descraques delivers the final two segments, beginning with the more serious “Boughtat,” in which djinns are ever-present demons. “Le jugement dernier” (“The Last Judgement”) is a bit more comical as it sees a documentary crew go to a rural farm to interview a man who says he was the victim of an alien abduction.
The segments are light on gore, placing their main emphasis on atmosphere and world building, along with having strong characters and stories. The different styles on display are reminiscent of such fare as EC Comics horror tales and such television horror anthology series as Tales from the Darkside and Monsters. The TV series was obviously blessed with a decent budget, as the special effects, makeup effects, and creature designs are all splendid.
Lubrano and Descraques are superb storytellers, and both show huge amounts of talent for writing and directing different styles of horror subgenres. They are aided by a highly talented array of actors.
Fans of horror anthologies should absolutely love Dark Stories. It’s a high quality film that offers suspense, chills, and laughs aplenty.
Dark Stories screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest’s 2020 digital edition, which took place from August 28–31.