[RM contributor Derek Emerildo Nieto reviews A Fantastic Fear of Everything, which had its Toronto premiere tonight at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.]
A Fantastic Fear of Everything (UK)
Starring Simon Pegg, Zaak Conway and Alan Drake
Directed by Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell
Written by Crispian Mills
Simon Pegg: check. Snappy title: check. Comedic psychological mystery premise: check. So how could this particular concoction fail to amaze when the funny formula sounds so right? One answer: uneven pacing.
Co-directed by former Kula Shaker frontman Crispian Mills and production designer Chris Hopewell, this film has a couple of nice shots and use of camera language, an aptly muted colour palette, some great performances – most notably from Pegg, who gives his portrayal of Jack everything he’s got, but also from the lovely Amara Karan, whose character is almost shoehorned in and could have been given more to do – and some fun cameos by British character actors Clare Higgins and Paul Freeman. It’s just the stilted pacing that, for some, might ruin the experience of watching this send-up of suspenseful psycho-thrillers.
Pegg plays Jack, a children’s book author attempting to become a crime novelist. Jack has become a housebound, paranoid wreck due to his research of Victorian-era serial killers. A ray of hope enters his life as some interest is shown from a Hollywood agent for his latest work, Decades of Death, but this will require a meeting outside of his home, and some clean laundry. It’s in the transition from his hijinks at home to the launderette, and an all-too-abrupt conclusion involving a chance encounter with a somewhat implausible “serial” killer who is out for “vengeance,” where we see the wheels fall off of this vehicle.
While I enjoyed watching this piss-take of films such as Repulsion and The Tenant, it takes a bit too long for its first act to play out, leaving very little time for its conclusion. We spend so much time with Pegg, who definitely carries the film as Jack, at his flat and with his phobias that the abrupt change to the laundrette and new characters is an awkward transition. The film would have been better off keeping Jack housebound as opposed to veering off into an unsatisfying conclusion with characters being introduced but never fully fleshed out.
Still, Universal should be commended for backing this film which, aside from the UK market, may be a tough sell. Despite its flaws, I did enjoy the movie and I think fans of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Pegg in general will too. I just can’t help but wonder how much more of a gem this could have been, either with a slightly longer running time or merely having kept Jack at home.
Derek Emerildo Nieto