A Fantastic Fear of Everything Simon Pegg's latest film, whilst often more confusing than amusing, is an entertaining romp through Hackney, writes Alysia Judge
idden in the tangled mass of the world wide web exists “The Phobia List”, an index so extensive it references fears from the loathing of bellybuttons (Omphalophobia) to an aversion of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth (Arachibutyrophobia). “The Phobia List”, then, does exactly what it says on the tin. On the other hand, debutant Director Crispian Mills’ film A Fantastic Fear of Everything is misleading in its choice of title: its lead hero Jack (Simon Pegg) does not fear 'everything' in the dark, dingy corner of Hackney he inhabits. He fears launderettes. This is an unfortunate phobia for the ex-children’s author who, branching into the world of serial killer literature, is due to meet a Hollywood Producer but has no clean clothes for the encounter. After attempting to wash and dry his clothes in the gas oven (you can imagine how that turns out) he reluctantly ventures into the depths of his greatest fear, the local launderette. Here, Jack must face all the unimaginable horrors a pack of 'Bold 2 in 1' can muster. The problem with this film is not an awful lot else happens. You can forgive the first half hour spent following Jack around his squalid flat in his saggy underpants because Simon Pegg is just so brilliantly funny. Edvard Munch’s priceless artwork ‘The Scream’ needs Jack's terrified face superimposed over the shrieking figure's visage – Pegg packs more expression than an expressionist painting. His ability to arrange his face into a kaleidoscope of shock is second to none. But eventually the film must leave the claustrophobic confines of Jack’s lair to venture forth into Hackney, and it is here that the cracks begin to show. Suddenly, Mills (both writer and director of this dark
comedy) flails. The movie spirals into absurdity that, whilst entertaining, borders on silliness. The problem is, outside the controlled enclosure of his flat, there is simply too much to be afraid of. Yet Jack cannot possibly fear ‘everything’ because he quite happily walks down a dark alley, late at night... in Hackney. Ultimately, A Fantastic Fear Of Everything suffers from too vivid an imagination. Its surrealist comedy is one of its greatest strengths, but trips the pacing up as Jack's erratic wanderings don't just distract from but replace the storyline. In short, the film quite literally loses the plot. One of the highlights of the movie, however, is the beautiful animated section where Jack tells the story of one of his children’s fiction characters, Harold the Hedgehog. In detailed stop-motion, the scene plays out like an Oliver Postgate animated children’s programme, complete with a cheery soundtrack and rhyming dialogue (used to great effect when Harold snarls at another hedgehog, “Now look here my friend, I must be blunt, you’re pissing me off you prickly…. Idiot.”) The whole animation is a tribute to the surreal, an example of how this film plays with expectations and pushes the boundaries of comedy. A Fantastic Fear of Everything, whilst not fantastic, is a bold attempt at parodying the psycho-killer genre. With strong performances and moments of comedic genius, what it lacks in coherency it makes up for in laughs. Filmed from the point of view of a neurotic creative, of course the plot is bound to stutter in places alongside the quirks of his troubled mind. Still, if you can stand the lurches, this is a film worth watching and a worthy addition to the Simon Pegg cannon.
Casa De Mi Padre
Dir. Ben Drew
Dir. Matt Piedmont
ll Manors is Plan B aka. Ben Drew's first foray into directing. Portrayed in previews as a violent social commentary on London's youth culture, it lives up to its billing throughout. From an innocent child being shot by another in a gang revenge attack, to babies being left on trains and sold on for £8,000, Ill Manors certainly is not a film for the faint-hearted. Viewers will walk out of showings, as a couple behind me did, but for those who stay, a stunning and shocking directorial debut awaits. Six interweaving storylines may confuse viewers at first, but the eventual result is a satisfying and rich plot set on a backdrop of six new tracks from Plan B. Riz Ahmed, as Aaron presents the most complex character, is a wannabe hardman with a conscience in amongst the relentless, violent and unrepentant attitudes of others. Meanwhile, Lee Allen, in his first feature film appearance, puts in an accomplished performances as the drug dealer and gang-land overlord, Chris. Ill Manors isn't a cosy 121 minutes to share with your cinema date, nor is it something to watch with the more squeamish members of your family, but as a directorial debut with a micro-budget and several untested actors, this truly is a stunning feature. The message that resounds is the one that opens the film: "We are all products of our environment. Some environments are just harder to survive in." Oliver Todd
Dir: Crispian Mills, Chris Hopewell
asa De Mi Padre depicts the struggles of Armando Alvarez, (Will Ferrell), a Mexican cattle rancher, as he battles to save his father's ranch. The return of Armando's brother Raul, (Diego Luna), a sleek, successful international businessman with a new fiance, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), in tow appears to herald the end of the ranch's financial difficulties. However, after Raul's business dealings turn out to be on the wrong side of legality, the two brothers find themselves at loggerheads with Onza, Mexico's premier drug lord, (Gael Garcia Bernal).To add to this complication, their fraternal relationship becomes complicated by the fact Armando has fallen for Sonia. The success of this film is largely down to Ferrell's ability to portray a serious persona against a backdrop of amusing material. In addition, Piedmont's ridicule of low-budget Mexican cinema, with Alvaro and Sonia, in one scene, for example, are quite clearly riding on fake horses on wheels, provides further comedy. However, I feel he does this once too often and the additional fact that all the dialogue in the film is in Spanish may put some viewers off. It's hard to grasp the full impact of the witty one-liners when you're squinting at subtitles. Consequently, though amusing, this film falls just short of a five star rating. Will Barnes
Dir. Nicholas McCarthy
s horror films go, The Pact is not that scary. Ignoring a few sudden bangs, it fails to raise the pulse. Nonetheless, it does do a good job of avoiding the farcical haunted-house traps that these sort of films can fall into, and the mystery in the plot is tied up with a series of surprisingly satisfying twists. Following the death of her mother, Nicole (Agnes Brooker) returns to her childhood home to discover a series of creepy happenings. Subsequently, she then disappears during a Skype conversation with her young daughter. Nicole’s moody sister, Anna (Caity Lotz) arrives on the scene and tries to determine the cause that is terrorising her family. The Pact also makes interesting use of the internet. Skype, Wikipedia and smart phones are carefully weaved into the plot and Google Street View even becomes a channel to the ‘other side’. Yet the film’s excitement to parade these new and innovative techniques means that occasionally the internal logic falls to pieces. In reality, The Pact is a pleasantly warped murder mystery with a convenient supernatural element. To keep those that came for the screams happy, there is one gory scene, a sequence of (unnecessary) telekinesis, and a tense face-off finale. But these moments are anomalies. The plot moves on at steady pace, playing with your expectations, offering misdirection in a digital rethink of the oft-repeated scary house set-up, but will ultimately leave you somewhat underwhelmed.
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