Easily the smartest, most elegant creep-show of the year, Peur(s) du Noir is a series of six black-and-white shorts produced by French people. (You can taste the Frenchiness in the few comedy segments, geometric blanc-et-noir kaleidoscopes with voice-overs about particularly Gallic terrors: "I'm scared of being uninformed about politics... I'm moving center-left.")

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The illustrators are all-stars: They've all won prizes, four have drawn for the New Yorker, one (Pierre di Sciullo) designs fonts for obscure languages spoken by North African desert tribes, and one (Romain Slocombe) made a book that was banned as soon as it was published (in France!), which "has since become an underground S/M cult classic." The animation is scary, beautiful, and stylistically diverse: a scratchy, cross-hatched segment of an evil aristocrat and his homicidal dogs; an anime-like piece about a Japanese girl haunted by the ghost of a samurai (this is Mr. S/M's project and, in a few segments of school-yard violence, you can tell); a folk tale drawn in charcoal about a monster living in the swamps near a small town.

The two American segments have a more psychologically piercing effect than their European counterparts. Hometown hero Charles Burns sticks to his favorite themes of sex and infestation with a terrifying short about a shy kid, his lusty first girlfriend, and a small, black insect that goes where it shouldn't. New York artist Richard McGuire uses simple, two-toned black-and-white to tell the story of a grumpy man trapped in a haunted house. The terror and dread that McGuire—and the rest of the animators—can conjure with a few simple lines easily bests the whole splatter palette of the most lurid grind- house mind. recommended