Toronto After Dark Review: A Fantastic Fear of Everything
A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a horror comedy that is as off-kilter as the writer who Simon Pegg portrays in the film. Pegg plays Jack, a former children’s author turned crime novelist who suffers from a mild case of Panophobia (fear of everything). Part of the reason for this is his latest work, a script entitled “Decades of Death”, which has Jack researching the most heinous serial killers from the Victorian era. The research has taken a toll on Jack as he becomes paranoid that everyone around him possesses killer tendencies. It also does not help that there is an actual serial killer, referred to as the “Hanoi Handshake” in the papers, who is terrorizing the Vietnamese population in the East End. Oddly enough though, the only thing that seems to scare Jack more than serial killers is his peculiar fear of the local laundromat.
Jack has managed to live the better part of his life avoiding both leaving his house at night and doing his laundry. Unfortunately, this all changes when Jack’s literary agent Clair (Clare Higgins) sets up a dinner meeting with a prominent script developer who is very interested in Jack’s latest work. Pressured to take the meeting, and convinced the developer is linked to the killers he has researched, Jack is forced to finally confront several of his deepest fears over the course of one night.
Though the premise is rather intriguing, A Fantastic Fear of Everything never reaches the comedic level that you hope it would. The film plays like a series of random ideas that never quite gel together. The film wants to be too many things at once. At times it is a dark comedy about paranoia, a spoof on serial killers, a series of gangster rap videos, and a childlike fable about abandonment. Even the comedic talents of Simon Pegg cannot hide the flaws that persist within A Fantastic Fear of Everything. Pegg does a great job in the film, but he is never utilized to his true potential.
While a mishmash of ideas, first time director Crispian Mills does sprinkle the film with some truly inspired moments. The most notable being the Fantastic Mr. Fox style animated sequence that plays a pivotal role near the end of the film. There are also some great visual gags that take place early on that work well in highlighting the fear that Jack experiences on a daily basis. It is just too bad that the film does not consistently match these heights. Despite some genuinely funny moments, A Fantastic Fear of Everything lacks the coherency needed to elevate it to being more than a series of sketches that rarely hit the mark.