‘The Fanatic’ Review: When Good Fans Go Bad
Everyone knows what it’s like to be a fan of something. Becoming so involved with an actor, film series or sports franchise tends to shape one’s personality. Whether you’re a casual fan of it or your life revolves around it, everyone can relate to this lifestyle. The Fanatic attempts to tackle the extremes of fandom.
The film stars John Travolta as Moose, the titular “fanatic” who goes from extreme fan to stalker of his favorite movie star, Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). With the help of his friend Leah (Ana Golja), Moose is able to find Dunbar’s home and attempt to show the actor that he’s an innocent fan who just wants his autograph. These escalating interactions send Moose down an unsettling path in his quest for recognition by his favorite actor.
John Travolta’s career has always fascinated me. He was once one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood and has starred in many classic films. Travolta has had a tumultuous career since then with various highs and lows. Currently, Travolta is finding a post-career life in these B-movie thrillers but has yet to capture audience appeal or positive critical response. The Fanatic is no different.
Moose’s journey from an innocent fan to a stalker/kidnapper is choppy and confusingly paced. Moose’s introduction is drawn out and works as more of a filler than developing the character. Travolta’s performance is all over the place. Travolta struggles with many of the dramatic scenes by playing them too goofy and removing any type of tension. He fails at making Moose a sympathetic protagonist and makes him feel like more of a caricature than what was intended. Travolta shines, however, in the first third of the film. We see him hamming it up in the role and trying to convey a child-like innocence to the character. It’s when he starts going down the darker path that he loses himself.
The other lead, Devon Sawa, is an equally unlikable character. His brash and abrasive Hunter Dunbar leads to conflicting emotions on how the audience wants the remainder of the film to go down. Dunbar harasses his housemaid, berates his ex-wife in front of their son and has no regard for his various “fans” that come to his book signing. His only redeeming quality is how much he cares for his son and does his best to protect him from Moose’s path.
The movie was written and directed by “Limp Bizkit” frontman Fred Durst. I bring up Limp Bizkit because at one point Sawa’s Hunter Dunbar begins playing one of their songs and talks up the band to his son. It’s a jarring choice once you realize the lead singer of the band is also the director of this film. Durst attempts to tackle some interesting questions like “How much do creators owe their fans?” and “Where is the line between acceptable and unacceptable fan behavior?” But these ideas are barely touched upon after being presented. It would have been really interesting to explore these questions and the morality Moose faces in his actions. But he callously brushes off each disturbing moment like nothing happened. There are shades of a good movie here but it’s only interested in the surface-level examination of the film.
One thing I couldn’t shake while watching this movie was the similarities between this film and Todd Phillips’ Joker. Both focus on a man with a troubling psyche, working as a street entertainer, who try to improve their lives through a celebrity figure and driven to the brink of madness. This movie attempts to tackle similar themes as that film but doesn’t want to do the work to get to the conclusion.
The Fanatic tries to be a horror/thriller movie that stands out in today’s society. But with a messy script, unlikeable characters and uninspired direction it comes off as an unfunny comedy. The premise of the film is unique enough that it would’ve been nice to see a more solid final product.
The Fanatic is available to rent on VOD.
The film stars John Travolta, Devon Sawa, and Ana Golja.