Simon Pegg (The World’s End) has the uncanny ability to make even the weirdest characters seem grounded and human. He understands that just acting bizarrely to get a laugh may work for a comedy routine, but not for a film. When Hopewell and Crispian landed him for their first major film, they clearly understood that the unique approach and story they wanted to tell required an actor that could approach it with heart, not just pratfalls.
The story itself is both an homage to horror/suspense flicks and a tale of the artist. Sometimes these things are, admittedly, hard to tease apart. Even with these themes it manages to stay squarely in the dark humor category, right through to the end.
I’m not usually a fan of overly broad humor, but Pegg saved this for me. In addition, the structure of the story and the unexpected approach to telling the tale kept it moving forward. There are plenty of nods to other films and stories as well, all in self-aware, good fun.