Fantastic Fear is the ridiculous debut of writer and director Crispian Mills. Pegg plays a former children’s writer who moves into a much darker world once he begins researching Victorian serial killers for an upcoming project. Spending months alone working on his new direction, Jack becomes obsessed with death and imagines assassins waiting round every corner. When a once in a lifetime opportunity arises the writer must venture out into the world and come face-to-face with his inner demons at a launderette.
The plot itself lacks imagination and, from the outset, it’s pretty clear how things are going to play out. Although, the opening act showed some potential with a hugely paranoid Jack sneaking through his flat brandishing a knife and wearing little more than some grotty underpants. Whilst you could never say Pegg is on top form here, he does embrace the bewildered and desperate writer. He throws himself into the role with a manic energy that drives the first half hour. Although it does end up playing out like the sort of sitcom being broadcast for the morons who only watch BBC3. The premise had potential but, in the end, the comedy is extinct.
It is once we leave the confines of Jack’s flat that things turn really sour and you get the idea Mills lost control of his idea. The quirky idea of one man’s struggle with himself to maintain his sanity becomes a hodgepodge of ideas desperate to cling to the surreal atmosphere the director was clearly trying to maintain. The plot loses any kind of momentum and moves off in a wildly different direction that has only the flimsiest link to the first half.
One of Fantastic Fear‘s redeeming features is an Oliver Postgate-esque stop motion animation featuring some creepy looking hedgehogs. Don’t expect brilliance but it certainly adds some colour to the dwindling later segments.
Watching this film, it is hard to get rid of the idea that Mills utterly lost control and set out to make a film that neither he nor his script was ready to make. There is no real imagination at work and the second half of the film is, at best, forgettable. On paper this had almost limitless potential: a director with a credible film pedigree, a loveable British actor and a quirky narrative based on a Bruce Robinson short story. The end result is an altogether listless affair. It is a film that takes itself incredibly seriously whilst being simultaneously ludicrous. Pegg and Mills are clearly playing things for their comic potential but I defy you to show me anything remotely amusing. It was a painful and dull watch. One that, had I not paid all of 99p for the pleasure, I could have given up on after the opening sequence.