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Two Horror Films from IFC

Fear[s] of the Dark (April 2/10)

An ambitious failure, Fear[s] of the Dark is an anthology movie featuring black-and-white shorts from several respected animators - with the colorless aesthetic and an overall emphasis on creepiness the only elements connecting the individual stories. The promising vibe established by the baffling yet entertaining first tale - which revolves around the horrific consequences of a romance between a shy young man and a bold college student - inevitably gives way to an atmosphere of almost interminable experimentation, as the various filmmakers seem more concerned with offering up striking visuals than in telling interesting stories. This is never more evident than in the consistently underwhelming final segment, with Richard McGuire's ostentatiously avant-garde animation style exacerbated by his reluctance (or inability) to offer up a wholeheartedly compelling protagonist - thus ensuring that the movie concludes on as anti-climactic a note as one could envision. The final result is an endeavor that'll probably fare best among hardcore animation buffs, as there's simply too little here designed to draw in casual movie fans (and this is to say nothing of the entirely ineffective wraparound story that connects the various tales).

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I Sell The Dead (April 3/10)

I Sell The Dead follows 19th century grave robbers Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) as they attempt to make a living by selling dead bodies to a shady doctor (Angus Scrimm's Vernon Quint), with the film primarily detailing the trouble that ensues after the off-kilter twosome embark on a money-making expedition that's as dangerous as it is lucrative. It's rather unusual premise that's initially employed to disappointingly underwhelming effect by filmmaker Glenn McQuaid, as the writer/director has infused the proceedings with a laid-back pace that essentially holds the viewer at arm's length for much of the opening hour. The less-than-enthralling vibe is exacerbated by an overly talky screenplay that feels as though it were adapted from a stage play, with the ongoing emphasis on various time-killing elements - ie Arthur and Willie participate in a drinking contest - only perpetuating the movie's problems. The protagonists' palpable chemistry together inevitably proves to be the one bright spot in the film's early stages, as Monaghan and Fessenden have infused Arthur and Willie with an irresistibly off-kilter energy that's reflected in the good-natured (yet gleefully mean-spirited) banter between their respective characters. The progressively affable atmosphere ensures that by the time the engrossing third act rolls around, I Sell The Dead has effectively overcome its lackluster beginnings to become a better-than-average horror comedy (and it's certainly not difficult to envision further installments featuring these two characters).

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About the DVDs: IFC Films presents both titles with anamorphically enhanced transfers, as well as a healthy dose of special features (and I Sell The Dead also comes with a full-length reproduction of its comic book).
© David Nusair