REVIEW: Dark Stories (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. François Descraques & Guillaume Lubrano.

Taken hostage by a homicidal doll, Christine (Kristanna Loken) tries to bide her time by telling scary stories. As a set up for a horror anthology it’s a cracker, the framing device as freaky as the five tales within, whilst directors Descraques and Lubrano ensure a good spread of tones and sub-genres are woven together into a macabre tapestry that caters to a broad range of tastes.

Opening tale Le festin des goules sees a delivery of monstrous paintings to a gallery, the subjects of which might hold some strange power; Le Parc follows a runner haunted by spectres; Mort mais vivant sees a man-turned-zombie reawoken to complete unfinished business; Boughtat – offering the selection’s biggest scares – focus’ on a woman trying to stay awake for fear that a vengeful Jinn is closing in; Le jugement dernier has two journalists investigate a local crazy who believes he is the Messiah; and La poupée sanglante brings things full circle, Christine spinning one last yarn for her porcelain captor.

Adapted from an online web series there’s not a weak entry amongst them, though understandable different audience members will gravitate towards some more than others. Comedy hybrids feature heavily, and most recall other films [Boughtat in particular feels like the unholy love-child of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and The Babadook (2014), but is all the better for it]. However it is this mixture of tonal variety and call backs, along with tight-runtimes which keep the pace moving, that ensure no one tale ever outstays its welcome, and – like the evil doll holding Christine captive – keeps the audience rapt, eager to hear the next.

Tim Coleman

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