Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A FANTASTIC FEAR OF EVERYTHING review

Starring Simon Pegg as a writer falling victim to his own research into serial killers, A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a paranoiac's dream. Or should that be nightmare?

Confined to his London flat whilst he tries to complete his study into notorious serial killers, Jack (Simon Pegg) soon lets his imagination get the better of him as he starts to picture escaped mad men in his flat and axe murderers climbing in through his window. When he receives a call from his agent telling him to attend an important meeting with someone interested in publishing his book, Jack is forced to head out into the night to find a launderette to clean his heavily soiled clothes.


In a slight career side-step, A Fantastic Fear of Everything is the directorial debut of 90's indie band Kula Shaker's frontman Crispian Mills, although as his mother is actress Hayley Mills and father the late director Roy Boulting, perhaps it makes more sense than it may first seem. Based on a story by Withnail and I's Bruce Robinson, it's a strange little star vehicle for the increasingly high profile Simon Pegg, its success totally dependent on his willingness to make himself look a little bit daft by strutting around in his Y-fronts waving a knife at shadows.

As if Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven was being told by The Mighty Boosh, A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a unique and fractured film that somehow almost manages to turn being a slightly random mess into a plus point. Starring a straggly haired and dishevelled Simon Pegg (also serving as executive producer) as an agoraphobic former children's book author hoping to catch his big break with a book about serial killers and their motives, it could almost be divided into two halves, with one being decidedly more successful than the other.


When Jack is holed up in his apartment with his thoughts and creaky floorboards to drive his actions, it's a fabulous one man show of tense toilet breaks and hilarious over-reactions to the slightest noises, not forgetting the odd backdraft from the oven and some over-zealous use of superglue. Clearly a man who has spent too long by himself (there's a brief mention of an ex-wife), Jack is comfortable in his own company and no-one else's, except for perhaps the odd coffee meeting with his agent Clare which just further fuels his paranoia that everyone is trying to kill him. The second half of the film sees Jack visit a launderette that only highlights his social awkwardness and inability to act normal around strangers, including the rather lovely Sangeet (Darjeeling Limited's Amara Karan).

Director Crispian Mills' band Kula Shaker famously mixed 90's Britpop with Indian musical influences, so it may be of no surprise that there's a range of musical genres on display, from early NWA-style rap to a jarring use of Europe's The Final Countdown. It's a madcap blend that goes along with Mills' approach to direction, using whip pans, dutch angles, dramatic music and an extremely gothic looking location to chart Jack's possible descent into madness.


A blend of live-action, animation and (fever) dream sequences, some of its elements work fantastically well. The production design (the lights dim to reveal a stack of books forming the shape of a gigantic skull), the music, the stop-motion animation (Harold the Hedgehog gets to impart some life lessons) and more than anything the performance of an on-form Simon Pegg all make this film worth watching, but where it does falter somewhat is in its storytelling. The early scenes in Jack's flat are a lot of fun and you get real sense of the dread and isolation he may be feeling, but when Jack braves the streets to find a launderette to clean his shirt, the story opens up too much and the introduction of new characters takes us on a completely different tangent that doesn't quite live up to the film's early promise.

Never better than when Pegg is avoiding his Poe-esque paranoia by rapping along to his 'Uzilicious' mix tape wearing little more than a towel with a carving knife glued to his hand, despite a lacklustre finale A Fantastic Fear of Everything manages to be dark, bizarre, a little bit flawed and a little bit brilliant.


Verdict



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