In the paranoid fantasies of the accidental children's author, every phone call is portentous; every creak, bump or shadow a potential predator. Researching a book on Victorian serial killers has exacerbated Jack's deep-rooted annihilation anxiety to the point where he can barely function.
Initially the comedy of errors that unfolds as Jack is forced to face his myriad phobias in order to take a meeting with a potential publisher deftly balances slapstick with psychoanalysis. It behoves a dishevelled man who flings himself around his flat in his underwear while brandishing a kitchen knife to question why he's so deathly afraid of going to a Laundromat. But a turn in the third act sullies the soup by relying on a contrivance that justifies the irrational fear Jack has spent the prior two-thirds of the film working through.
Simon Pegg gives the role his all—weary, bedraggled and wild-eyed—as he makes ludicrous leaps in logic to connect the terrors of his writing to his real life (and a hilarious mockery of posturing when Jack employs the sonic confidence armour of gangster rap in order to feel safe enough to walk down the street).
First-time directors Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell do a solid job of integrating visual and music cues that reflect Jack's interior perspective with scene composition and construction using familiar cinematic tropes that suggest pulpy overblown menace. And even when the plot goes off the rails, it's the fault of Mills' script. The acting, pacing and symbolic synchronicities that unlock the repressed memories of Jack's childhood trauma remain assured.
Though it falls short of profundity and sacrifices the plausibility of its character study for an unlikely Hollywood ending, A Fantastic Fear of Everything is a consistently entertaining vehicle for Simon Pegg to stretch his chops in. (Universal)