I managed to avoid anything discussing Simon Pegg’s new film, A Fantastic Fear of Everything and entered the cinema with only the memory of the poster and a basic notion of the plot: Jack (Simon Pegg) is a children’s fiction author who, after doing research for a book on Victorian serial killers, becomes paranoid about being murdered.
The narrative manages to be the weakest element of the film if only because it gets too jumbled up in what it wants to be. There is a good story in it, in fact there are a few of them, but together they make an average film. This jumbled mess seems to become a theme since its repeated in almost every element of the film.
In a very Simon Pegg fashion, A Fantastic Fear of Everything flits between the borders of horror and comedy. So much so in the first half that it’s almost tense; ruined only by sloppy writing and the expectations associated with Pegg in his films. This is done mostly through its visual aesthetics which privileges Jack’s point of view. Without wanting to give too much away, the film becomes the embodiment of the adage “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Though, this in itself is not quite the case – just to be extra cryptic.
The visual style changes almost with every scene: the dark, gloomy lighting and skewed camera angle as Jack succumbs to paranoia in his own home, the semi-psychedelic vision for the therapy session, and the fairly average style set in the everyday reality scenes. Again, this works as it aids as a plot device in itself. It’s clearly representing what Jack is seeing and how he feels. In keeping with the title, it creates a fantastic impression – the reality within the film is kept from the viewer and they must decide on what side reality sits.
Jack’s occupation as a children’s author is shown through the visual style as well, prominently through the animated scenes. The film opens showing a dark, charcoal vision of London setting up both the whimsical and sinister undertone of the film as a whole. However, it changes to regular live action cinema before any plot is even hinted at. This isn’t necessarily a problem but appears separate from the rest of the film. While it returns to animation later in the film, it changes to stop-motion instead of returning to the drawn style where instead it should have continued with a singular animation style rather than the ‘throw things at the wall and see what sticks’ approach which dominates the film.
The strongest part of the film for me would be the use of music. It’s over powering more often than not, very much in tune with the perception based narrative. It’s most prominent in the scene where Jack walks to the laundrette to the sound of gangsta rap. It motivates his movements and the attitude he’s trying to embody. More terrifyingly is when “The Final Countdown” appears, suitably accompanying the realised fear though likely to lessen the effect into humour rather than the facepalm moment I had. It also serves to show again the need to pull back on the ideas in the film. There is a discussion of “real” music but is only briefly touched on: another case of there being too many key themes.
Overall, I found the film enjoyable if too lost in its own head. It could have been so much better but the reins must have been loose in development creating a weak, if entertaining, film.