A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2012)
★ / ★★★★
Ever since Jack (Simon Pegg) began to do research on nineteenth century killings, he has developed an irrational fear of being murdered. His phobia has taken over his life to the point where he is unable to leave his East End apartment because he finds everyone and everything suspicious. Jack’s agent (Clare Higgins) brings great news: someone from Hollywood wishes to meet with him and discuss the script, titled “Decades of Death,” he has cooking. But this means having to go outside and braving through the possibility of getting murdered.
“A Fantastic Fear of Everything,” directed by Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell, is a film that might have worked better as a dark comedy given that its main character is a writer with murder on the brain. Instead, it is a toothless comedy, immensely boring at times, that offers nothing but a few chuckles here and there, mostly due to Pegg’s energetic performance.
A lot of its humor is misplaced. One that particularly stands out is when Jack must go to a launderette before meeting a man who could give Jack’s a career a much-needed boost. Our protagonist has no clean clothes and so he looks like a homeless person. The would-be humor relies on the fact that the women are looking at him strangely—because his hair is unkept, that he looks like he has not taken a shower, and that he appears to be very confused as to how to operate a laundry machine properly.
The screenplay by Crispian Mills makes it look like the joke is on a homeless person whose mental faculties are not entirely there and he is dire need of assistance. I found nothing particularly funny about the situation. On the contrary, the more the sequence unfolds, I felt increasingly embarrassed about what is being shown on screen. There is a way to make a situation like this amusing but what is shown here isn’t it. I found it tactless—even racist at times given the stereotype that is given to the two Vietnamese women who run the launderette.
Scenes which involve Jack imagining that he is being hunted by a madman lack tension. These need not be scary, the picture is a comedy after all, but we need to believe that he feels like his life is genuinely threatened. One looks at the manner in which these “scary” scenes are executed and it is immediately recognizable that the directors do not fully understand what makes horror films effective.
Too often do these scenes rely on employing a loud would-be terrifying soundtrack or score and then showing a dark figure in the background. Jack’s imaginings might have worked better if the screenplay had been more adventurous and hyperbolic—dream-like—instead of relying on what he come to expect from a scary movie.
Although the material attempts to hone in one of Jack’s key experiences as a child which might explain his irrational fear, the psychological explanations the screenplay offers do not delve beyond what we can extract ourselves—and without having to sit through a hundred minutes of flimflam. My experience of waiting at a dentist’s chair is more entertaining—and suspenseful—than having to sit through this rubbish.