After an author gets so submersed in his research on Victorian serial killers he starts to believe someone is lurking around every corner. A chance meeting with his agent reveals a Hollywood film producer is interested in his work. Will he be able to subdue his paranoid fears or will Jack be rendered paralyzed with A Fantastic Fear of Everything?
Directed By: Crispian Mills, Chris Hopewell
Starring: Simon Pegg, Clare Higgins, Paul Freeman, Amara Karan, Alan Drake
I’ll go on record as saying A Fantastic Fear of Everything could have drastically gone one way or another for me. I tend to have an unfair bias towards Simon Pegg’s work. Shaun of The Dead ranks among my favorite zombie pictures of all time. Hot Fuzz was a total blast and Run Fat Boy Run had me in stitches. Pegg is the kind of actor that provokes a bout of uncontrollable laughter with a simple glimpse. Yet he’s proven more than capable of conveying a wide array of emotion. As far as I’m concerned everything he’s touched turns to cinematic gold.
Having said that, I was ambivalent to watch A Fantastic Fear. Would Pegg be able to consistently deliver the goods or would this be my premiere let down by his performance?
The opening sequence illustrates a great deal of shadow and light contrast. It doesn’t take long for a foreboding mood and atmosphere to be created. As Pegg’s character of Jack, an author in a slump begins to narrate we subconsciously slither further into our seats awaiting the action to unfold. His fidgety, anxious body language tells a tale within itself as we feel, see and virtually taste his paranoia. Pegg is a tremendous physical actor as equally capable of delivering full belly laughs as skin crawling terror.
Use of his own research and characters within in his stories is equally imaginative and infectious. We get into what’s making Jack come undone and become instantly invested into how it all unfolds. His erratic and irrational behaviour is ridiculous and humorous on one level while at the same time oddly believable. We see a little of ourselves in Jack as ashamed as we are to admit it as we silently cheer him on in his struggle to overcome adversity.
A commendable ominous soundtrack and sound effects create further authenticity to Jack’s fears. Something as benign and trivial as Christmas carolers and a launderette suddenly possess a sinister side closed to our perceptions previously.
In typical dry, witted British humor Pegg’s shenanigans interrupts the dark tone of the plot and delivers plenty of laughs. It’s a delicate balance to be able to create something as equally comical and scary that packs a punch. Yet audiences will remain exhilarated as the one hundred lapsed minutes expire before we know it.
Perhaps some of the most memorable of scenes is Jack’s examples of mental unbalance in his monologue as he tries to hash out the links between The Criminal Stare, Dr. Krimpen and head of screen plays Humpfreys. Its hysterical frenzy at its finest and few could portray it in disturbing side splitting fashion as Simon Pegg.
Some disturbing imagery is showcased from directors Mills and Hopewell. They do a delightfully demented job of showing just how unhinged Jack can be that will render the average viewer awestruck in squeamish splendor. His continuous bickering with himself creates tremendous unease as we’re fixated on how things could possibly escalate.
The conversations Jack has with psychiatrist Dr. Friedkin (Paul Freeman) are illustrated with surreal dream sequences many will relate to. Our collective subconscious is a powerful thing that each of us possess, making it easy for us to buy into the believability factors.
Calamity is dialed up a notch in the launderette scenes. Flashbacks of Jack’s past eclipse the present. We get some exposition into the central neurosis of his character. His phobias in the present are no less comical but somehow creates a valid cohesion because of his past.
At the peak of heightened tension we find out who the antagonist truly is as unveiled in a development most will not see coming. A bizarre sequence of animation is thrown into the fray which we question its relevance at first but it does more to compound the plot than hinder it. In this case the sideshow was a necessary evil. It provides a variety of intrigue unto a jaded audience that may have become desensitized to traditional terror.
All in all A Fantastic Fear of Everything is perhaps not for everyone. Fans of comedic horror mishmash will die rolling in the aisles.
-Four out of five tombstones