Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2014) ***

R, 100 min.
Directors: Crispian Mills, Chris Hopewell
Writer: Crispian Mills
Starring: Simon Pegg, Alan Drake, Clare Higgins, Paul Freeman, Amara Karan, Golda John, Tuyet Le, Tamzin Griffin, JJ Stanness, Jacqui Chan

It appears that playing Scotty in the “Star Trek” movies hasn’t gone to Simon Pegg’s head. He’s still willing to run around in disgusting looking underwear and make an all around arse of himself in a British indie comedy. While “A Fantastic Fear of Everything” opened in British theaters in the summer of 2012, it didn’t make it to the states until this February in a very limited theatrical run. Now, it’s available on Netflix Instant and makes for a surprisingly enjoyable Brit-humor horror/comedy.

I say it’s surprisingly enjoyable, because after the first half-hour I thought that it’s too bad that this film wasn’t quite working, because there are some really good ideas in it. Eventually it works through its problems—just as Simon Pegg’s character tries to—and is running on all four cylinders by its conclusion. I wish I had saved this one for Horrorfest, because it would’ve been a great change of pace when I needed it.

Pegg plays a writer of children’s books who is trying to break away from that genre by writing a teleplay about Britain’s most notorious serial killers. The problem is he’s a very sensitive bloke and his research draws out his innate fear of … well, everything. Actually the film’s title has it more accurate. It’s fantastic fear, because he imagines everything is some plot of a serial killer to do him in.

The first act stumbles because it gives us only Pegg acting afraid of everything and running around his flat like a paranoid psychotic. It’s too claustrophobic. We don’t know enough about him to see how his behavior is actually funny. And yet, there are some great ideas bubbling through here, such as the allusion to “A Christmas Carol” when he goes to his window to shoo off a group of kids caroling. All this business with the scaredy cat running around in his underwear in his apartment, would’ve worked better as a second act.

When he finally ventures out of his apartment to wash some clothes, the story finally opens up and allows the audience in. Is it any surprise that his trip to the laundry does mix him up in a serial killer’s scheme? Not really, but Pegg plays the perfect victim of misidentification when the knife that he accidentally glued to his hand in the first act finally comes into play. The filmmakers have great fun with the material here, and it all turns out worth it despite having to figure out just what their game is during the first act.

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