Directed by Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell
Written by Crispian Mills
A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a film that Wes Anderson would make if he didn’t give a flying sausage about storytelling. It has many of his auteur signatures (a twee pop-art sensibility, creative and meticulous set design, character idiosyncrasies, assured and muted-mustard cinematography, an affected offbeat soundtrack, love for all things quaint or vintage), but there’s no prevailing context or structure to uphold these aesthetic qualities. Instead, everything about A Fantastic Fear of Everything, all of its quirks and eccentricities, exist in a vacuum that suspends the film in a permanent condition of unfeeling.
The film stars Simon Pegg as Jack, a neurotic and intrapersonal-communicating East London writer hoping to sell his Decades of Death, a book about serial killers. His agent, Clair (Clare Higgins), sets him up with a potential Hollywood buyer, but because of his paranoia and fantastic fear of everything, Jack is hesitant to say the least. However, Clair eventually convinces him to go, but without any clean shirts or socks, Jack has to visit the launderette first, which is a particularly strong phobia of his.
At its heart, A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a film about the nature of phobias, where they come from, how they affect us, and how we can overcome them, but it’s hard to care about this aspect or take it seriously when the film itself isn’t particularly engaging. The story often amounts to Mr. Pegg, try as he might with his considerable comedic presence and talent, flailing around on screen in his undergarments or wielding a knife. The film tries to buy a laugh with its surrealist ambience and tone, which is laboured with excessive audio and visual indulgence, but ends up feeling desperate and misguided at best. Watching a middle-aged white man singing and dancing along to hardcore rap isn’t funny anymore.
Also, the film is often over-encumbered in a swathe of pop-culture references. You get nods to Psycho, The Fly, Spaghetti Westerns, Europe the band, Iron Butterfly, and David Bowie, but they aren’t implemented in a meaningful way. Instead, A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a digest of interesting ideas, references, and aesthetics (note the stop motion animation sequence) that would’ve worked incredibly well in a kooky little short film with no pretense of purpose, but whose effect is lost and negated in its 100 minute feature length form.
– Justin Li
The 7th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 18-26. For a complete schedule and ticket information, please visit the offical website.