On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Simon Pegg-led comedy-horror flick, A Fantastic Fear of Everything.
Simon Pegg is Jack, a novelist whose marriage has somehow been ruined by his unpublished first novel and whose life has been further ruined by his decent into a paranoid madness–a madness caused by his compulsive research into Victorian serial killers.
But when he gets word from his agent that someone at the BBC is interested in his scripts, Jack is forced to overcome his newfound fear of everything and mentally prepare himself for the meeting that will make or break his entire career. And, of course, just as he steps outside his comfort zone, Jack quickly discovers that maybe his fears weren’t completely unfounded in A Fantastic Fear of Everything.
Much like Simon Pegg’s skittish character, A Fantastic Fear of Everything hardly goes anywhere. And where it does dare to go is nowhere particularly new.
While there’s a lot of potential to the concept and plenty of mileage to be had from Pegg’s neurotic performance, writer/director Crispian Mills never does much with either. In fact, Pegg’s performance is just about all that keeps the film from being completely forgettable, even for the most die hard Simon Pegg fans.
Earlier scenes feel like a comedic send-up of Edgar Allan Poe, with a frail-minded intellectual slowly losing his already tentative grasp on reality and sanity. One sequence in particular sees Jack alone in his apartment, frightened of the darkness all around him and struggling to even urinate in peace while his anxiety-riddled mind conjures up not-entirely imagined shapes and figures and sounds. But this early sequences highlights how well Mills can play well with both comedy and legitimate horror.
Pegg is very much playing for laughs, with the way he dashes across his long hallway and dives wildly through the doorway of his bathroom. But, at the same time, all of this is juxtaposed with still silence, something eerily moving about in the darkness behind him, and Jack being as vulnerable as possible–he’s caught literally with his pants down around his ankles.
It’s a somewhat silly but all-too real fear many of us might have had on a late-night visit to the bathroom.
Unfortunately, once the film leaves Jack’s apartment behind, the film quickly stops being either funny or scary.
Instead of more scenes of Jack struggling with his ever-increasing madness, we’re left to watch him take a prolonged trip to get his clothes ready for his big meeting, struggling with every day things like a washing machine, and finding himself wrapped up in a horrifically cliched final act.
This sudden shift makes it feel as if someone had lost half the script during production and insisted that Pegg simply reenact his favorite episodes of Mr. Bean.
In fact, if anyone knows why the film abandoned its entire premise less than halfway through for the lifeless, pointless day-to-day of a man suffering from severe anxiety, I would love to hear a proper explanation.
Because it’s one thing for a movie to start strong and quickly lose steam. Or for a movie to start weak and continue to only get worse. But it’s a whole other thing when a movie doesn’t simply lose its magic but eagerly abandons it.
Now, the movie may have worked if we started with the mundane and moved on to the absurd mix of Pegg’s humor and Poe-like madness. But not in the opposite direction. You never go from authentically interesting to purposely boring…unless you plan to swerve back to what hooked your audience in the first place. Misdirection only works as a tool if you don’t use it to assault–and insult–your audience.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything isn’t without its charms and moments of creativity–especially Simon Pegg’s atypical performance. But the film as a whole is sure to fail to impress most who watch it, if it doesn’t have you actively upset once the life is sucked out of the whole thing.
Had this actually been a 30-minute episode of Mr. Bean, the drastically shorter run time might have managed to properly utilize the light peppering of comedy, horror, and quirkiness. But, as it is, these brief moments of enjoyment largely rest upon an otherwise bland offering.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a NO CHILL.