Simon Pegg is pretty great. I’m sure most people would agree. But he’s not really a star yet. I mean, he’s famous enough and has appeared in plenty of big movies, but he’s not a super star your mum would recognise. Which is why his name appearing above the title of A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a sign of the kind of movie we’re dealing with here. He doesn’t get his name above the title in Star Trek. He doesn’t get his name above the title in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. What I’m getting at is, this movie is a low budget, non-main stream oddity by a first time writer / director where the biggest thing going for it is it’s star, who’s not really a Star (with a capital “S”) just yet.
It’s fair enough when movies like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Paul and The World’s End hype Pegg’s involvement. As a co-writer of those movies, as well as lead, he is a major part of what makes them great. And they come with an inbuilt audience of Pegg / Frost / Wright acolytes who love them before seeing a single frame (myself included). Which is why I felt like A Fantastic Fear of Everything was overplaying its only card by pushing it’s Pegg-ness.
Written and co-directed by Crispian Mills (what an oh-so English name!), this film does something extraordinary. It somehow uses amazingly cinematic lighting, camera angles and movement, and a strong performance by Pegg to make one of the most amazingly un-cinematic movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. It looks like a play that originally took place on a single set with a single actor, has now been padded out for the film adaptation.
It attempts to wring horror, suspense and terror out of ordinary, mundane and boring events, like answering the door to Christmas carollers or going to the laundrette. But despite its moody lighting, extreme close ups, dutch angles and dramatic music cues, these ordinary, mundane and boring events just come off as ordinary, mundane and boring.
It’s a strange story, schizophrenically changing mood and genre every few minutes and even seems little slapped together in places. The love interest, played by Amara Karan, doesn’t appear until about two thirds in, then she’s given no real character or context to play. There’s no reason for Pegg’s Jack to like her (apart from being a hotty) and there’s no reason for her to like him. It’s like Mills realised he needed love interest as he was writing page seventy of the script and just whacked her in form that point on, never bothering to go back and make it seem in the least bit natural or organic.
Before having a stab at the movie industry, Mills was the singer / guitarist for Kula Shaker. I’m not sure how big they were in the UK, but I remember them for a couple of OK singles that got decent airplay on Triple J in the late 90s (or possibly early 00s). Watching A Fantastic Fear of Everything struggle to stretch its premise over feature length, I think Mills is better suited to the three minute running time of a catchy pop / rock song than he is at film making.