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A Fantastic Fear of Everything

2012 | 100 min | R | 1.85:1

A Fantastic Fear of Everything


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Theatrical release date

 07 February, 2014
 08 June, 2012

Country of origin

 United Kingdom



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A Fantastic Fear of Everything Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, October 26, 2012

“A Fantastic Fear of Everything” is an acquired taste, submitting such an itchy, darkly comic atmosphere that’s utterly guaranteed to energize those in step with its madness, while others will find the enterprise an overly mannered grind to get through. It’s polarizing work that carries immense creativity and sharp sense of humor, burrowing into the spinning mind of a destructively phobic man during an intense period of suspicion. Thankfully, star Simon Pegg is up for the challenge, bringing to the screen a truly scattered character who’s hilariously bound by his fears, articulated with all the spasms and pauses the actor is particularly skilled at delivering.

Jack (Simon Pegg) is a frazzled guy managing profound parental abandonment issues, with his daily routine one of pure terror with nearly everything he encounters. An author putting together a book on serial killers, the research has gone to Jack’s head, finding his life haunted by nightmarish imagery and constant awareness of his own mortality. Holing up inside his decrepit apartment, Jack is contacted by his agent, Clair (Clare Higgins), who informs the loner of interest in his work, demanding the agoraphobic one travel across town to a dinner meeting to discuss the details. While bravely determined to make the journey, Jack first has to deal with washing his clothes in a laundromat, a task that’s especially difficult for the man, who also has to sort out a burned face, a knife superglued to his hand, and particularly forward Vietnamese employees to successfully execute an evening of clean clothes and professional conversation.

“Fantastic Fear” confronts an uncommon cinematic challenge with its limited resources, attacking the world of an obsessive man with only half of the picture set outside his apartment. Director Crispian Mills conjures the sinister realms of Tim Burton and Sam Raimi for his debut feature, turning a potentially suffocating atmosphere into a carnival of impulses and suspicions, tracking Jack’s struggles to deduce the evil he’s convinced is after him at all times (a terror brought on by his full immersion into the histories of brutal murderers). It’s a tricky tonal tightrope to walk, yet the ornate design of “Fantastic Fear” really sells the grimly giddy antics, with the frame packed tight with details, while exquisite offerings of animation and specific lighting helps to dial down the tension, keeping the effort highly theatrical in an agreeable manner. While working with a troubling storyline of a prolonged nervous breakdown, Mills sustains a visual mischief that’s always amusing to study, introducing oxygen to an otherwise stifling movie.

Also coming to the rescue is Pegg, whose sly gifts with silly business go a long way to keep “Fantastic Fear” approachable, especially when the material steps into some darker psychological corners. It’s a tightly wound performance with a full-bodied commitment, maintaining Jack’s disheveled appearance and persistent face of fright. It’s also hilarious work, bringing Jack’s burning manner of thought to a speedy internal monologue, while physically responding to persistent threats in a broad manner that captures the irrationality of the role with ideal flexibility. Pegg’s the one keeping the film on task when the screenplay gets a little lost in the details, and he’s enormous fun to watch, especially when Jack escalates his fear to a point of no return.

The second half of “Fantastic Fear” takes the action to the dreaded laundromat, where Jack must confront his shattered childhood and deal with deceptively simple washing machine instructions. There’s also something of a confirmation of the author’s paranoia, leading to an exhausting conclusion with limited comedic value. However, there’s really no clean way out of “A Fantastic Fear of Everything,” which constructs such an intricate web of anxiety, it locks itself into a routine of nervous energy that’s better left without a direct conclusion. A happy ending seems false, but there’s enough inspired madness flowing around the feature that a little optimism can be forgiven.

Starring: Simon Pegg, Paul Freeman (I), Clare Higgins, Henry Lloyd-Hughes
Directors: Crispian Mills, Chris Hopewell

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