Simon Pegg leads this new British film, dubbed by its creators as a psycho-comedy and derived from a short story by Bruce Robinson, A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a patchwork of stylised paranoia and anachronistic detective fiction shot through with a nightmarish dose of nostalgia.
Pegg’s Jack is an author whose research into Victorian serial killers has sent him into a paranoia funk. He fights off loneliness, looming deadlines and an outside world filled with a host of imagined horrors and while there are some good ideas at play here the film fails to pull them together into a cohesive narrative.
On a positive note Pegg makes the most of the neurotic black hole that is his character and the first half of the film, kept almost entirely to the confines of his flat which is exceptionally well designed, and there are moments which bring the story to life (the wall of death, the puppet theatre, knife and super glue) but there creeps in the feeling that there’s no real story here and no momentum to sweep us up. This feeling is borne out as the film jumps from one set piece to another linked by Pegg’s internal monologue which works well as we explore his mindset in the early part of the film, but which becomes a burden, then an outright replacement for a cinematic narrative.
At times the films plays out as if Spike Milligan was ripping off an 80s ITV detective drama but not as successful or as enjoyable as that sounds, and there’s not enough firm ground to base a hundred minute story. The visual stylings are great, the animated sequence at the end saves an increasingly odd denouement, and there’s a neat anachronistic feeling to the film but I would have liked to have seen the potential for a stronger story emerge. There is visual confidence here and Pegg knows exactly what to do with the material however there are jarring tonal shifts and a script which needed a tighter grasp to keep us on track.
The origins as a short film are evident as the narrative is stretched too thin across the running time, Pegg, Mills and Hopewell show off the good ideas here but as a whole the film is far less than the sum of its parts.