Set in England "once upon a time not so long ago," A Fantastic Fear of Everything begins as if it were an Edgar Allen Poe short story. Much like Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, which opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre, centers on an unreliable narrator who may or may not be insane and makes the most of the element of psychological horror. "This is the story of me, Jack," says the film's bug-eyed and frazzled protagonist (Simon Pegg) who's pressed up against his apartment door in anticipation of a murder attempt. Afraid of an attack, he carries a carving knife with him everywhere he goes. At one point, he even glues the thing to his hand.
A playwright who's familiarized himself with one too many serial killers from the 19th century, Jack is on the verge of losing it. His apartment is downright creepy, as he's taped articles about killers on his wall and confined himself to living in squalor as he feverishly works on his script.
Based on the Bruce Robinson novella Paranoia in the Launderette, the film mixes comedy and horror in a very strange manner.
The problem with the film: It's ultimately not particularly funny nor is it scary. During a long flashback we learn that Jack's irrational fears begin one day at lunch. While waiting on his literary agent, he reads about a brutal Vietnamese gang killing and quickly decides he should stay holed up in his apartment. But when he's required to meet a Hollywood executive who wants to buy his script, he manages to drag himself to the launderette, overcoming a great fear of washers and dryers that dates back to his childhood. He hopes to quickly wash some clothes and then rush to the meeting.
Jack's greatest fears ultimately start to materialize in a very strange manner. Without giving away too much plot, suffice it to say that Jack eventually realizes that he's not just being paranoid about the danger that lurks around the corner.
While the film's ending ultimately wraps things up nicely, getting to that point takes some time. And even though Pegg gives the role his all, it's easy to lose interest in the movie before you get to the dramatic conclusion.