This was our first year covering the Toronto After Dark Film Festival as press, and while I personally had very little control over or choice in the screenings I was able to take in versus the ones I would have to miss, I don’t think I could have planned anything better for myself than to start the fest with a flick like Grabbers, and end with A Fantastic Fear Of Everything. What a fabulous and hilarious film! It’s quirky, to be sure, but even with Simon Pegg at his paranoid best, the film never strays to a place so over-the-top that it becomes no-longer-relatable. In fact, it’s in watching Pegg deal with the frustrations of his own phobias that makes the film so darn funny! During the pre-show introduction with director Crispian Mills, a joke was made that Simon Pegg steals the movie from himself – and I found that to actually be sort of true, in a way! This is a Simon Pegg we’ve not seen before, and his ability to traverse several variations of one character’s persona is absolutely marvelous to watch.
Pegg plays Jack, a children’s author who decides to go a different route with his next book, and does massive amounts of research into Victorian-era serial killers. The things he reads about start to get the better of his imagination and, the night before he has a huge meeting with a Hollywood producer interested in bringing his latest project to the screen, Jack’s growing paranoia makes it impossible to sleep, let alone leave his apartment. His fractured mind becomes haunted by dreams of a floating eyeball staring at him, and a killer around every corner. Everyone is suspect, from the policeman passing by on the street to the server bringing his food when he meets his agent in a restaurant for lunch. When Jack finds he’s down to his last sock, he makes an emergency call to his therapist, Dr. Friedkin (Paul Freeman), who helps him realize that, to get past his fear of everything, he must first face that which he fears the most – the Laundrette.
Simon Pegg’s performance as Jack pretty much epitomizes what it feels like to have a fear of ANYTHING, regardless of how illogical that fear may seem. It’s for anyone who’s ever awoken in the night to be startled by the figure of a person in the crumpled blankets on their bed, or a shadow behind the curtain, or the certainty that something just moved in the darkness of hallway beyond the bedroom door. Even Jack can’t help but laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of his fears – but that doesn’t make him any less frightened or crippled once he’s in its grip. For Jack, it seems, everything must go pretty wrong before anything can start to go right. His intentions are good, but his downward spiral necessitates a certain amount of freefall before he can begin to climb back up, and in watching him continue to struggle – even when it seems all hope is lost – we see Jack become the hero of his own story at last.
A Fantastic Fear Of Everything has little bits of everything for viewers to devour, be it elements of fantasy, horror, comedy, tragedy – or just a simple tale about a hedgehog – all of it comes together in the end to form a perfect protrait of Jack’s inner journey to outer acceptance of and control over his own reality. Check out this film when you get the chance! If you’re anything like me, you’ll leave the theatre after having laughed at Jack (and with him), and at yourself a little perhaps, and ultimately feeling rather uplifted and even somewhat hopeful – almost as though you actually learned something along the way.
Learn more about A Fantastic Fear Of Everything here and at the following sites: