FILM REVIEW: A Fantastic Fear of Everything (15, 100 mins)

WEIRD isn’t always wonderful.

Crispian Mills, the son of actress Hayley Mills and director Roy Boulting, and grandson of Sir John Mills, carries on the family tradition by stepping behind the camera for this wacky black comedy.

You have to admire his ambition, splicing live action with animation to broaden the film’s visual palette and seduce our senses.

Regrettably, the script isn’t so much a hot mess as a tepid shambles, expanding a weak comic skit about an agoraphobic’s unhealthy obsession with Victorian serial killers into a ramshackle descent of madness.

Certainly, without Simon Pegg in the unhinged lead role, it’s difficult to imagine A Fantastic Fear Of Everything finding any kind of audience.

Canny casting will provide a brief stay of execution before a swift transition to DVD where Mills’s muddle of ideas may yet be bestowed cult status.

The film starts promisingly with an animated city skyline replete with slinking cat, which welcomes us to the grimy locales of Hackney in London’s East End.

“This is the story of me, Jack,” explains our socially awkward narrator (Pegg), a children’s author whose attempts to branch out into crime thrillers have left him with a paralysing fear of almost everyone.

Thus, he becomes a virtual recluse in his dirty flat, occasionally telephoning his shrink Dr Friedkin (Paul Freeman) for words of comfort.

Out of the blue, Jack’s literary agent Clair (Clare Higgins) invites him to lunch.

She pleads with him to churn out another story about his beloved character, Harold The Hedgehog.

“He wrecked my marriage, the prickly devil!” seethes Jack.

Unperturbed, Clair insists that he takes a meeting with head of scripts, Harvey Humphreys (Kerry Shale), that evening.

When Jack protests that he has nothing to wear, she warns him of the dire consequences: “It’s Humphreys or bust!”

So Jack must steel himself for a trip to the Lotus Laundrette, where he crosses paths with beautiful stranger Sangeet (Amara Karan), community support officer Taser (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and a serial killer who has been terrorising the streets of the capital.

A Fantastic Fear Of Everything is a fascinating yet flawed experiment that fails to engage us on an emotional level.

Jack provides narration throughout, which veers from the mildly comical to the dull, while Pegg performs Mr Bean-style slapstick with superglue, a pair of soiled underpants and a smoking oven.

The inconsistent tone proves unsettling, though not in a way that would benefit the film, but the animated vignettes are charming, such as the story of a misunderstood hedgehog told through stop-motion.

Best known as the front man of rock band Kula Shaker, Mills strives to impose himself on his chaotic creation but like Dr Frankenstein, he’s not in charge of this monster.

Rating: 5/10

Contains swearing and violence

Release date: Friday, June 8

Review by Damon Smith