Movie Review: THE FANATIC

Dear, Fred, I wrote you but you still ain’t callin.’  I’ve got a few questions about your movie.

In what can only be assumed to be the sequel to Eminem’s Stan, THE FANATIC tells the story of what happens when Stan wakes up in hell.  Having driven off the bridge, pregnant wife in the back, crazed fanatic, Stan (reprised by Devon Sawa, and now named Hunter) is cursed to live as a star with his own crazed fan, stalking him, writing letters in pencil and crumpling up drafts.

At least that’s the best explanation for what is happening in this movie.

John Travolta stars as Moose, an overly excited film fan obsessed with collecting autographs and photos, and with his favourite action star, Hunter.  Hunter. Hunter and Moose.  This movie was written with the subtlety of a baboon, the subtlety of Tom Ford red couch Nocturnal Animals cinema imagery, or whatever was happening in mother!

When the poor, bullied Hollywood local gets a bit too close to his favorite star, his one friend will try to stop him from going over the edge, something Moose seems very likely to do.  After waiting patiently for an autograph from the object of his fandom, Moose is given an angry “no,” (we waited four hours in the blistering cold and you just said no!”—Stan) setting off his minorly vengeful obsession.  Pushing his limits, Moose changes from Hunter’s biggest fan to his rival, and horror ensues.

When I heard Fred Durst was making a horror movie starring John Travolta which would satirize Hollywood culture, I was more than excited.  It directly comes for fan culture and paints a grim picture of celebrity obsession.  Unfortunately, the film couldn’t deliver on the promise of a wild and out satire, and instead is a dull and senseless tale about one obsessed fan and the inexplicable actions of those around him.

(L-R) John Travolta as Moose and Devon Sawa as Hunter in the thriller, THE FANATIC, a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution

There’s a place between blockbuster horror and trash horror where films like Open Windows, Cube and Prevenge sit. I had expected THE FANTATIC to land gently in these pillows of films, but it straight up missed the target and crashed hard onto the concrete (probably bouncing off of a bird bath on the way).

Devon Sawa really shows what he’s made of here.  Not only was he able to once play a crazed and violent fan, but this time he is the TARGET of such a fan? Get the dude his awards.  I’m suspicious if this whole film was his master plan to reclaim the name “Stan,” and get “fan” back into common vernacular.

It’s impossible to ignore that Travolta’s Moose is played as though the character has autism or an intellectual disability.  This seems to answer for why the people around him are unreasonably “nice” when he displays alarming behavior.  But what’s most egregious about the whole affair is that this is used to portray the character as unstable and violent, further leaning into the tired trope that those with intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses are violent.  It also makes it all the more uncomfortable to see him get beaten up.

Parts of THE FANTATIC will have you wondering just how powerful Fred Durst is that they let him just make his movie with not a solitary whisper of intervention to suggest some better story design, some coherent narrative choices, or an inoffensive acting decision.  I really wanted to enjoy this movie, but it ultimately amounted to 90 minutes of watching a poor guy get his butt kicked.  There’s a part in the movie where Moose reads a screenplay in Hunter’s house and mutters “this is not a good script.  He should not do it.”  Hard to know if it was meta. THE FANATIC arrives in theaters August 30, 2019 and On Demand/Digital, September 6, 2019.

Lindsay Traves
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