Playing out like a fairy tale, Jan Svankmajer’s 2000 film “Otesánek” resembles Spielberg's Jaws, on acid. In this case the shark is an insatiable log that noisily and bloodily picks off the characters one by one. The titular log is named Otesánek ("Little Otik"); he is crudely animated, adorable and innocent, and 10 feet tall. Of course, since Svankmajer is an animator foremost, Otesánek is not the only inanimate object to come to life in this film. Pancakes and nails are also personified, and the general tone is one of uncomfortable magic. The film is over the top and disturbing from its Anne-Geddes-gone-wrong opening sequence: There are babies inside watermelons, babies being weighed, wrapped in newspaper, and sold to housewives for dinner, babies, ugly and screaming in every pram. But Bozena and Karel want one of their own, and Otisánek is the uprooted tree trunk, vaguely shaped like an infant, that they scavenge and adopt.

Svankmajer, the film’s writer, director, and producer, has previously adapted cheerful, wholesome stories such as Alice in Wonderland, The Fall of the House of Usher, and Faust, so here its no surprise when he utilizes the story within a story format to present the audience with a play by play forecast of exactly what is going to happen next. The interior story takes the form of a prophetic picture book read by the young Alzbetka. This device grows thin, of course, and once “The girl and her clover” and “The swineherd and his swine” have been eaten its no longer fascinating to know that “The shepherd and his sheep” and “The old woman and her cabbage” are next to go. This is the point, however, at which the carnage compensates for the story, becoming less disturbing than hilarious. All of the human characters, Alzbetka excepted, are so grating, stupid, and UTTERLY INSANE, that it isn’t too bad to see them dead. Besides, to paraphrase Bozena, Otik's ever adoring and apologist mother, people die in car accidents all the time.