A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Fri, Jun 8, 2012, 01:00

Directed by Crispian Mills. Starring Simon Pegg, Paul Freeman, Amara Karan, Clare Higgins, Henry Lloyd-Hughes 15A cert, general release, 100 min

WELL, HERE’S something you don’t see every day. Thank goodness. Music fans with strong stomachs will remember a messy, post-psychedelic band from the 1990s called Kula Shaker. After years in the wilderness, Crispian Mills (famous son of Hayley and grandson of John), the group’s driving force, returns with a handful of half-formed ideas masquerading as a feature film.

Coming across like an unholy blend of Michel Gondry and Steptoe and Son, the dark comedy does have a perverse, insane integrity to it. Nothing about it suggests the influence of script doctors or marketing wonks.

This is, of course, the most back-handed class of praise.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything could hardly be less disordered if it had been filmed in the back of a van descending a potholed pathway at the height of a thunderstorm. Occasionally the ragged funkiness comes across as charming. More often it’s plain irritating.

Simon Pegg stars as an author of children’s stories who has decided to embark on a career in crime writing. Things are not going well. Holed up in a grim Hackney flat, he is becoming increasingly troubled by various neuroses. In particular, a phobia

of launderettes is playing havoc with his sanity. Everybody he meets glowers with wide-angle anger. His researches into Victorian crime lead him to convert innocent business contacts into relatives of Dr Crippen. Then . . . well, then more of the same follows.

There is a watchable film hiding within this largely depressing, annoyingly repetitive audiovisual dirge. After all, Harold Pinter made a career of transforming less promising scenarios into fascinating dramas. But Mills shows no great aptitude for dialogue, pacing or atmosphere. Pegg’s admirable enthusiasm – even when miming to gangster rap in a duffel coat – fails to convince us that relentless oddness is any substitute for genuine imagination.

Get back to your guitar, young man.