A Fantastic Fear of Everything sees Simon Pegg do battle with his detergent-based demons in an offbeat and decidedly muddled horror-comedy. Pegg plays Jack, a children’s writer turned crime novelist, whose research into the methods of the Victorian era’s most prolific serial killers has resulted in a mental breakdown. Jack now believes that, at any moment, he is about to be murdered.
He is holed up in a Withnail & I -style flat, surrounded by gruesome images of nineteenth century butchers plastered across his wall, carving knife glued (in the end, literally) to his hand. Each shadow is a cloaked figure and each floorboard creak a murderous intruder. Even a group of Carol-singing ‘yoofs’ are fuel for Jack’s irrational paranoia.
The film begins as an effective Hammer-esque spoof with Pegg’s squirmy, pathetic shtick complementing Jack’s deranged visions. After a while though, once the writer is forced to leave his apartment to meet a Hollywood movie producer interested in his work, A Fantastic Fear of Everything becomes a floundering feat of, well, not much really.
Jack goes on a dream trip to chat to his therapist, Paul Freeman’s Dr Friedkin (a nod to Exorcist director William?) and then on to a laundrette which becomes, somewhat surprisingly and bewilderingly, the film’s climax. We learn that Jack has a fear of nearly everything, but especially laundry houses, after he was abandoned by his mother in one.
First-time director Crispian Mills – and Chris Hopewell, who is credited as co-director – create a stylistically confused world for their characters to tread, mixing live action, comic horror and stop-motion animation. The gags are hit and miss and the film is anything but fantastic.