Once upon a TAD Screening, as I sat in ebon theatre,
Simon's new movie, my mind a'yapping couldn't stop me from a'laughing,
The film patrons all were lapping, lapping up this silly horror.
There is no equal,' I settled, lapping up this silly horror -
Satisfied, I want no more.
Simon Pegg’s newest film, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, is obviously steeped in the works of Edgar Allan Poe (like my little riff on The Raven above?) and makes great use of the English language. It's inspired by the works of Poe, other Victorian writers I don't even know about, and even Dr. Seuss, which makes sense given one of the directors is Kula Shaker front-man, Crispian Mills - the other being Chris Hopewell. I say this makes sense because of the style and use of prose that just oozes out of the film. Only an artist with flair to spare could acccomplish this.
Right from the start, the tone is set by a brilliant title sequence that gives a Victorian flavour with its ominous, yet playful, visuals and orchestral score. Simon then runs with this tone by narrating his character's thoughts as though he were, you guessed it, reading something written by Poe. There's a reason for this; his character Jack has been working on a novel about Victorian serial killers and now he has an irrational fear of all the little bumps in the night, the shadows in his apartment, even the carolers come to his front step. He trusts no one. The camerawork and shots blew my mind -- how very claustrophobic Jack's apartment felt and how every shadow could hide anything. I especially loved a walk through the hall that reminded me of the Grinch as Jack stalked to his bedroom, wary of what might be inside.
The great thing about what Simon involves himself in is how all his works seem to straddle multiple genres. The mood is set, Jack is freaked out and needs to move on with his life, but that doesn't mean that we won't find so many laughs that it begins to hurt before the halfway point of the flick. It's not a scary horror movie at all times, but it can still give chills. It's not a straight-up comedy the way tone can change often (it's not jarring, it always works), but it sure is funny throughout. It's distinctly British, but I feel that it should be accessible to everyone regardless of whether you get that British wit. My only niggling complaint would be how the pacing suffers as a result of the shifting tone, and how it seems to go in one direction before jumping to a new track. This is a very minor point though because I loved this movie.
I felt like a kid watching. The big smile on my face, little starts here and there -- I was along for the ride. Much like children listening to a fairy tale. This works especially well seeing as how Jack gave up writing a children's tale to write about serial killers. Harold the Hedgehog was Jack's baby. Personal reasons keep him from writing about Harold anymore. It's a shame, seeing as he didn't talk down to kids, just like old fairy tales didn't. Kids are coddled too much these days. After the screening at Toronto After Dark, Crispian was on hand for a Q&A where he said he tested out the Harold the Hedgehog story on his own kid (sans bad language, of course). His kid was scared, but happy at the story's resolution. Any kid over eight could watch A Fantastic Fear of Everything and would be able to handle it all just fine. We need these tales for kids as much as adults. Good stories these days are few and far between. Especially ones as enjoyable as this.
A FANTASTIC FEAR OF EVERYTHING was featured at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival on October 26, 2012.