An author trying to gather inspiration from the stories of Victorian serial killers spirals into an uncontrollable state of paranoia and a fear of being murdered.
Simon Pegg plays Jack, a successful children’s author who wishes to be a serious crime novelist. However, while researching a novel based on Victorian serial killers, he undergoes a bout of paranoia, jumping at every bump and creak he hears within his rambling London flat. His agent contacts him with the news that a Hollywood big-shot wants to meet him, so Jack must smarten up his act… literally. He has to visit his dreaded local launderette to wash his only presentable outfit. However, it forces him to confront many of his worst fears, with a seemingly innocuous trip turning into an expedition with life-or-death ramifications.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything was written and directed by Crispian Mills, singer with 90s band Kula Shaker and executively-produced by its star, Pegg. I didn’t mind a bit of Kula Shaker back in the day, and Pegg usually makes for a likeable screen presence, so I was honestly willing this film to succeed. Everyone likes a comeback, and given Mills comes from such a thespian background (grandson of Sir John Mills, son of Hayley Mills), a re-birth as an auteur would seem like a natural leap.
Unfortunately, on the strength of his debut feature, the sooner Mills gets back into the studio with his Kula Shaker cohorts, the better.
A Fantastic Fear Of Everything aims to be a surreal, Terry Gilliam-esque comedy which sadly misfires at almost every level. The plot initially wanders, offering little idea of where it may be headed and there’s little indication of why Jack should be such a nervous wreck, or why he thinks he’s being haunted. It’s carried along by the loosest and most implausible of plot devices, before settling – once Jack reaches his dreaded launderette – into a daft, serial killer kidnap story. Fatally, for a comedy, I found myself laughing just once. On the plus side, Pegg throws himself into his role with admirable gusto, and Claire Higgins offers game support as his waspish agent. The production has clearly had some money thrown at it. Unfortunately, what might have worked as a half-hour comedy vehicle on Channel 4 is stretched beyond the point of tedium. The end result offers a fantastic lack of anything worth recommending.