Expect something surreal and off-the-wall with A Fantastic Fear of Everything starring Simon Pegg. While writing a television script about Victorian serial killers, entitled Decades of Death, Jack (Simon Pegg) becomes terrified of becoming the victim of a killer himself. Tracing the root of his many anxieties, which also include a fear of launderettes, Jack decides to find the strength to face his phobias head on.
Written and directed by Crispian Mills (star of 90s indie band Kula Shaker), this comedy starts well. Jack explains how he has driven himself crazy with fear and a conversation with his agent suggests a history of nervous behaviour. But Jack’s antics become a ridiculous affair. He’s a disastrous personality who attracts chaos and gets into quite a few scrapes, which provide the basis of the comedy, involving superglue, soap and dirty underpants. The film bumbles along from one outrageous scenario to another requiring suspended belief and some patience on the part of the viewer. Just when the story seems to be pulling in one direction, it suddenly takes a completely different turn.
Simon Pegg keeps the film together with innumerable gasps and horrified expressions. Most of the film sees Jack in conversation with himself but Pegg’s charisma keeps this amusing rather than tedious.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything has a clear visual style evoking those of horror films and ghost stories – outside there are dark underpasses, tunnels, and a run down neighbourhood. Inside, Jack’s flat would frighten even the most skeptical resident, with flapping net curtains, black and white photos of murderers and odd nic-nacs that include an anatomical model of the human body. The opening credits – a cartoon-style landscape of London – and a hedgehog based animation are stunning.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything plays with theories on psychology and the Victorians’ bizarre ideas about physiognomy and the serial killer. At times, A Fantastic Fear of Everything seems to try too hard to be unconventional. And, although quirky, it also has a kitsch side, ultimately tapping into ideas about fate, self-realisation and the circularity of life.
There are some laughs in this surreal comedy but its not on parr with many of Pegg’s previous films. A Fantastic Fear of Everything starts strong but loses its way. At times, it feels like A Fantastic Fear of Everything is trying too hard but, if you’re keen to see something different and a bit silly, then this could be it.
VERDICT: ✪ ✪
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