FrightFest VOD film review: Dark Stories
Ivan Radford | On 01, Sep 2020
Director: François Descraques, Guillaume Lubrano
Cast: Kristanna Loken, Michelle Ryan, Dominique Pinon, Delphine Chaneac, John Robinson, Tiphaine Daviot, Sebastien Lalanne
Watch Dark Stories online in the UK: FrightFest 2020
They’re Outside streams as part of FrighFest 2020 at 6pm on Monday 31st August. For the full festival line-up and online ticket information, click here
What if the only way you could stay alive was to tell someone spooky stories? That’s the hook around which this fantastic French anthology rotates, a carousel of creepy shorts that sends one chill up your spine after another.
The first is the best of the bunch, an art gallery chiller that sees shadowy beings emerge from the paintings. Fast-paced and relentless, its breakneck chase still finds the time for some of the most original visual effects work you’ll see in a genre flick this year – rotoscoped with an inky black smudge, the monsters are shifting portraits of unknown dread and they leave you waiting to see what director Guillaume Lubrano does next.
Another standout take us into a dark laboratory, where a corpse wakes up and confronts the scientist watching over him. It’s a two-hander that’s performed with a surprising dose of action that turns this into a sci-fi thriller more than an outright frightfest, but there are inventive body horror flourishes aplenty.
If you want sheer spookiness, then a tale of a Moroccan haunting is the one for you, a young woman begins to believe that she’s being pursued by a Jinn. Mirrors, windows and more all help to generate some jump scares that don’t feel cheap, while Tiphaine Daviot’s central performance perfectly balances mortal terror and mental uncertainty.
The most eccentric and ambiguous, meanwhile, is a strange farmhouse tale, which sees a farmer (Dominique Pinon) convinced that he’s a messiah prophesying the end of the world. What happens next may not shock you, but Pinon’s performance is wonderfully mannered and eerie, while Michelle Ryan reminds you why she’s a much-missed screen presence as the outsider trying to figure out what’s really going on.
The person telling these stories? That would be Christine (Kristanna Loken), a mother who finds a dummy (Scott Thrun) delivered in the post threatening to kill her and her son – unless she can keep it distracted with sinister tales, the darker the better. The result is a nifty framing device that stops the anthology falling down where most do: the linking narrative. This keeps the surprises rolling until the end credits, while celebrating that essential drive to share stories of the unknown and cautionary tales of the unsettling with each other. These Dark Stories are certainly ones that deserve passing along.