A Fantastic Fear Of Everything Movie Review
After a career writing children's books, Jack (Pegg) is working on a screenplay about gruesome 19th century serial killers, which has left him a quivering wreck afraid to leave his Hackney flat. He ventures out for a meeting with his agent (Higgins), who sets up a meeting with a producer. But this will mean visiting the launderette, which is his greatest fear. As the nightmare escalates, Jack phones his mentor (Freeman) for help, then finds his fate eerily entwined with a local cop (Drake) and a woman (Karan) doing her laundry.
With intense attention to detail, musician-turned-filmmaker Mills (son of Hayley and John) creates a funky black-comedy vibe, concentrating on Pegg's expressive face and stream-of-consciousness voice-over. Mills clearly loves the heavily art-directed mordant comedies of Tim Burton and the Coens (most notably Barton Fink) and also makes witty pop-culture nods to everything from Psycho to Knightrider. The eye-catching shabby, cluttered production design echoes Pegg's disheveled life and crippling paranoia. So the film makes us laugh, cringe and jump.
Amusing gags are casually scattered in the background of every scene, while more obvious hilarity comes from Jack's obsession with his mentor's theory that all murderers develop a mad-eyed stare. His mind races far ahead of reality, making ludicrous connections that are portrayed in Pegg's wildly spiralling eyes and flapping physicality. And menacing shadows lurk everywhere, as Jack's flat is a riot of creaking red doors, gloomy hallways and red herrings. In other words, there's a lot going on even though nothing much is happening.
Even in a wonderfully elaborate stop-motion animated sequence, this film's style swamps its intriguing substance. It would have more punch if Pegg performed this same script alone on a barren stage, because our imagination would fill in the gaps. This would also paper over the narrative excesses, which include crazy coincidences, illogical incidents and loaded revelations.
As it gets increasingly nutty and horrific, the film is just too clever and detailed. Which leaves it feeling both long and dry.