A Fantastic Fear of Everything film review
A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2014)
NOTE: Originally released in 2012 in the U.K.
Simon Pegg, Clare Higgins, Paul Freeman, Amara Karan, Sheridan Smith
Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell
CRITIC’S RATING: ** 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
British television and movie audiences are already familiar with comedian-actor-writer Simon Pegg’s frenetic fright farce A Fantastic Fear of Everything courtesy of a June 2012 release nearly a couple of years ago. Now American moviegoers will get a wacky taste of Pegg’s hedonistic horror comedy in a limited February 2014 release. Although slight and synthetically offbeat thanks to the thinly veiled mockery, the familiarity of Pegg’s penchant for irreverent humor and a gift for outlandish satire lends A Fantastic Fear of Everything its credible supply of serviceable outlandishness.
Sure, the wayward laughs are admittedly uneven and the horror-induced tactics feel strained to say the least. Still, the lofty weirdness of the random wit oddly feels inspired as the quirky overtones compensate for the otherwise lightweight material that borders on overstaying its welcomed mockery. If one is to rely on Pegg’s past delusional ditties that include his “Cornetto Trilogy” (2004’s Shaun of the Dead, 2006’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End) not to mention dismissed yet underrated offerings such as 2008’s Run Fatboy Run and 2011’s Paul then there should be some passable reception for the zany A Fantastic Fear of Everything.
There may be a mixed reaction to Pegg’s excessive mugging and other exaggerated gestures that suggests a desperate ploy to pad the premise about a twitchy children’s author-turned-crime novelist/screenwriter Jack (Pegg) whose interest in macabre grown-up literature turns him into a Nervous Nellie. Specifically, Jack decides to do some research on 19th-century English serial killers during the Victorian era. This leads to Jack becoming a wrecking ball of fear and paranoia thus crippling him psychologically. Unfortunately, the historical murderers of yesteryear has Jack scared of his own shadow. The poor guy is reduced to tip toeing around his place while clutching a knife ready to stab the first thing that remotely startles him.
Jack’s panicky shtick with the country’s brush of gruesome slayings from ancient times is not the only obsessive obstacle that haunts him to no end. We learn of a childhood fear of launderettes that still has Jack creeped out. When an opportunity to meet with a movie producer that is interested in his ferocious findings of vicious Victorian killers becomes a notable reality Jack struggles with the notion of leaving his doorway as some murderous menaces are bound to turn their twisted wrath on him. Nevertheless, Jack must overcome his jittery tendencies and meet with his agent (Clare Higgins) to solidify his movie adaptation of his grotesque writings.
Jack is sitting pretty and finds success in his new writing career but the choke-hold of his constant bout with an assortment of suffocating phobias is a detriment to him taking care of his personal and professional business practices. To add insult to injury Jack must confront his terrorizing anxiety of launderettes because his collaboration with these film honchos at this particular venue of “scary” washing machines and dryers depend on him facing his longest lasting aversion.
Jack’s budging neuroses–both indoors in his closed-in cluttered apartment and outdoors in the unassuming world–spins its troublesome madness for the ribald writer. Pegg, for the most part, does incorporate the shaken Jack with the decent amount of lunacy that invites all sorts of off-kilter reactions both cautionary and comical. The scattershot gags hit more often than not and selective nods to cinematic influences such as Hitchcockian films gives A Fantastic Fear of Everything its fruity verve. Pegg’s disheveled nutcase (along with added voice-over) may not entirely sell us on what it is like to walk in his shrill-ridden shoes but at least he makes for a hyperactive hoot that warrants the scattered chills and chuckles. Again, Pegg’s manufactured facial expressions may grate on the nerves for some but he is a needed riot when parts of the movie lags in sufficient suspense and solid silliness. Basically, Pegg’s petrified energy keeps the audience somewhat fixated on the patchy goings-on.
Writer-director Crispian Mills (former 90’s musician and offspring of actress Hayley Mills) spearheads a twirling black comedy that seems artfully decorative although the comic bits and fright quotient often is saturated in choppiness. A Fantastic Fear of Everything does not have the greatest of transitional fodder (a last minute reference to kiddie animation, sketchy personalities that reinforce Jack’s jumpy nature, a real would-be nefarious nuisance, etc.) but Pegg’s exasperation and an ode to cheesy goose-bump thrillers results in a giddy send-up that resonates in resounding silliness.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a cockeyed and chewy treat for a Pegg-related vehicle that gleefully registers on the side of unsettling cheekiness.
NOTE: Focus of New York film critic Frank Ochieng is a member of: