Once upon a time, not so long ago, Simon Pegg was starring in a Channel 4 programme called Spaced. Thirteen years on and he’s shot to stardom via zombies, model villages and star-trekking. Here in A Fantastic Fear of Everything Pegg appears as troubled writer Jack whose phobias threaten to put an end to his profession.
The story is simple enough; Jack must somehow attend a meeting with a mysterious man interested in his current project ‘Decades of Death’. His project, however, just so happens to be about famous serial killers and has managed to send Jack over the edge. He sees shadows in every corner and approaches his ever-ringing phone with caution. Thanks to the simplicity of its storyline, Crispian Mills’s film is allowed time to deliciously execute its narrative. Pegg’s narration complements the opening scenes whilst the camera angles and mix of animation and flashbacks gives vibrancy and depth to the story.
As the film wears on it highlights how easily things can become a source of paranoia. Carol singers set Jack back and things soon go from bad to worse as he manages to suffer one bout of bad luck after another. His fears add a comical twist to the dark tone of the film whilst the decision to cast Pegg allows for a certain lightness to complement the potentially harrowing aspects. After all, you can’t be too afraid when the protagonist is facing his fears in a pair of grotty Y-fronts.
His phobias themselves are entirely irrational but reach a head when the third act kicks into gear. The film’s tone and pace changes slightly when external characters are given more screen time but Pegg manages to counter the wobble with his delightfully narrated hedgehog story. The mixture of incidental music, terrifying violins and Jack’s gangster rap choices provide juxtaposing but well-placed additions to the quirky film.
Sometimes the film feels like an extended short but A Fantastic Fear of Everything is well composed and neatly ties up its loose ends. Fantastically fun, the film doesn’t shy away from experimenting with its content.