Nothing can kill a movie quite like its own hype. In the perfect alternate universe we will be able to go to a movie theater and see a film completely blind its specifics. No reviews, no plot synopsis, no trailers. Hell, no title even. We would just go in, sit down, and be served an artist’s work. There could even be war and famine in this reality; I don’t care, as long as I can see my movies without outside influence. Perhaps it makes me sound easily convinced, but even knowing the critic consensus on a film can affect how I enjoy it. I try to watch movies objectively, but it’s not always possible. So when I saw A Fantastic Fear of Everything tonight I actively tried to put the buzz out of my mind.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything is currently sitting pretty on a 30 at review aggregate site Metacritic (it’s out of 100). I don’t know what most people found so offensive about the film, but clearly it turned more than one reviewer off. It is easy to understand how going into an experience knowing that most people don’t like it may color your perception of it. I wasn’t even planning to see the film; but there I sat in the Laemmle’s in North Hollywood with my viewing companion, reading information that barely counts as trivia as I waited for the movie to start.
Maybe it was the circumstances, but I found the movie to be quite enjoyable. Simon Pegg stars as Jack, a writer whose fixation with serial killers has driven him a little batty. He huddles in his apartment, sans pants, holding a carving knife, constantly on the lookout for the people he knows are lurking about, trying to kill him. It’s a real acting smörgåsbord, and Pegg eats it up. There are a few other actors, but this is totally Pegg’s film; and he takes advantage of it. At times Pegg is over-the-top, but this tends to fit in with the highly stylized nature of the feature.
Directors Chris Hopewell and Crispian Mills (Mills also wrote the screenplay) employ a visual style that is super derivative of Tim Burton, down to the opening credits. Even the music, composed by Michael Price, sounds like one of Danny Elfman’s early scores. It all adds up to an effectively dark tone, but it is disappointing that Hopewell and Mills aped someone else so blatantly. They are first-time directors, however, so perhaps they are still searching for their own style.
Regardless, their Burton imitation is pretty effective; A Fantastic Fear of Everything is entertaining, exciting, and – at times – quite funny. Usually this is due to Pegg’s commitment, but Mills’ script deserves credit too. It is easy to see where some critics might lose interest: the movie is about ten minutes too long, and a little meandering. And there are a couple instances where the actors should have been reined in (Pegg’s “hip-hop” scenes come to mind). But for the most part the movie is highly watchable. Unfortunately for the filmmakers the public opinion turned against them early on. It’s hard to come back from a 30, but this film has as good a shot as any to do just that.