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A Problem with Fear
Directed by Gary Burns
Produced by George Baptist,
Luc Déry
Written by Donna Brunsdale,
Gary Burns
Starring Paulo Costanzo,
Emily Hampshire,
Willie Garson,
Camille Sullivan
Music by John Abram
Cinematography Stefan Ivanov
Editing by Yvann Thibaudeau
Distributed by Christal Films
Release date(s) Canada 5 September, 2003
United States 17 April, 2004
Country Canada
Language English

A Problem with Fear, or Laurie's Anxiety Confronting the Escalator is an absurdist comedy by Canadian film-maker Gary Burns.


Laurie Harding (Paulo Costanzo) is a small shop clerk in the local Calgary mall. His world is full of tragic accidents - crosswalks, elevators, escalators and virtually anything associated with commercialism or technology is parodied as objects of fear and tragedy.

An elevator plunges 30 stories. A woman's scarf is caught in an escalator, strangling her to death. A man is struck by a car, right before Laurie had the premonition to not cross.

His own world is full of fear of these very events, his predictions of them, and his dependence on his less-than-sympathetic sister, Michelle (Camille Sullivan).

Michelle heads product development at the company Global Safety Inc., whose mission is to provide products to combat the "Fear Storm" which assails the city. With their "Early Warning 2 Safe System tm", the PDA-like device warns you of danger ahead of time and the "Safe Bracelet tm" senses your fear and allows you to beep for help.

Along with Laurie's prophetic powers, and the endless onslaught of accidents, the movie is full of absurd events: a mall announcer who continually requests a speaker of x foreign language - without any apparent reason; the same mall's population which slowly dwindles, being virtually empty by the film's end; an entire classroom population which is accosted simultaneously by hiccups;

Some of these are more apparently satirical of pop culture: to comfort himself, Laurie repeats commercial refrains, such "Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat"; his girlfriend, Dot (Emily Hampshire), does a survey on "how the clothes you wear define you" - one she both detests and is obsessed by.

These events are framed by the pretextual plot of Laurie conquering his fears — and by extension, the fears of those around him. However, by the film's end, it is doubtful that anything has been changed or achieved.

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