Killers, rappers and cartoon hedgehogs make appealing bedfellows in this macabre comedy, a first both for writer and co-director Crispian Mills and for Pinewood Studios’ initiative to support low-budget Brit-pics.
Both deserve praise, though not as much as Simon Pegg does, in what is largely a one-man vehicle. Pegg is Jack, a children’s author whose quest to write Decades Of Death – a gruesome biog of the “hackers, dosers and severers” who terrorised Victorian London – has made him a neurotic shut-in.
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you, something Jack learns when an enforced trip to the launderette where he was abandoned as a child sees him caught in a nightmare scarier than any he might pen.
Smart nods to Psycho, Kubrick and German expressionism suggest Mills has done his homework, which is perhaps to be expected from his lineage. (John Mills was his granddad, Hayley’s his mum and dad Roy was half of the Boulting brothers.)
But plotting’s not his strongest suit; an awkward shift from imagined to actual threat presents too big a transition for Mills and co-director Chris Hopewell to manage gracefully.
The film’s financial limitations, meanwhile, betray themselves in the paucity of exteriors and stop-motion episodes that are hardly likely to give Aardman sleepless nights.
Fear falls short of fantastic yet it’s a decent effort that, like Pegg’s beard, proves to be something of a grower.
Remember Bunny And The Bull? This dark farce ticks most of the same boxes. If only it were as sharp as the knife Pegg superglues to his hand.