Released: 30th March
Seen: 27th April
Sometimes a movie is so instantly deemed “God awful excrement” that I’m almost eager to see it, just to know if everyone is overreacting. At the end of August last year, The Fanatic came out in America and when I heard about it, I patiently waited for it to come down to Australia when I’d have the chance to see it, but it never came. Possibly because it made $3000 in 52 cinemas, which is aggressively bad, but I knew eventually I would have to see it somehow. Sure enough, the movie got a DVD release on the 30th of March, meaning it’s a 2020 movie for me and I would finally have the chance to see it (and it’d be eligible for an end of the year list for me, so that’s nice). Then it popped up on Google Play and was about 6 bucks to rent which… yeah, more than I should’ve spent. I should’ve just not bothered, I don’t deserve this kind of shabby treatment.
Moose (John Travolta) is a troubled man who is clearly mentally ill in some form but because no one actually helps him, he pours his energy into being a hyperactive fanatic who is obsessed with Hollywood. In particular, he’s obsessed with action movie star Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa) and wants to get his autograph but because of the previously mentioned mental illness, he behaves like a gigantic creep and gets yelled at by the object of his obsession. Because this is a movie about obsession gone too far, naturally the mentally ill obsessive decides to break into Hunter’s home (MULTIPLE TIMES) and eventually does a whole bunch of extra creepy stalking and even kills someone. I wish this movie was as interesting as the plot sounds but oh my god is it not.
This film is, to put it bluntly, almost unwatchable. The lead performance by Travolta is the worst kind of Travolta performance where he has somehow confused overacting with acting and done it in the worst way possible. Everything about his character is unlikable and every second he’s on-screen makes you desperately want to turn the movie off because he’s so uncomfortably bad. A good director would have made him pull back a little or made him behave like an actual human being but we don’t have one of those, we have Fred Durst whose only direction seemed to be “Hey, can we put some of my shitty music in this?” and “Hey, what if you hated everyone in the movie and wanted a nuclear bomb to drop and kill them all?”, cos that’s what the movie seems to consist of.
No one in this movie behaves like an actual person. At some point someone would’ve probably gotten Moose some help, his friend (who provides pointless sporadic narration) wouldn’t have encouraged his obvious obsession. Hell, Dunbar would’ve gotten some kind of security on his property after the first time Moose popped up on his property if this movie understood how people function. It doesn’t, it plays everything so over the top that you wonder if actual people were involved in the production of this at any point. It’s not even cartoonishly fun, it’s just painful.
This film really tries to do the whole “Obsessive fan and artist” relationship that we’ve seen before in films like Misery, even borrowing a little bit of imagery from that film… except Misery was good and had Kathy Bates in the lead and John Travolta WISHES he was as good as Kathy Bates. There’s no surprise here, no subversion, you know from the first second that you see Moose that he’s the kind of guy who will gleefully cut off the head of his obsession and mount it on his wall. He’s not even the fun kind of evil bad guy, nor is he terrifying. He’s taking on the Annie Wilkes role but there’s none of the charm or menace, he’s just a big mentally ill person who could probably be confused by pointing behind him and yelling “Look over there!”.
Then there’s Hunter Dunbar who we’re meant to empathise with on some level… except he’s obscenely cruel to a mentally ill man and even when he gets his inevitable moment to fight back, it’s somehow cruel. I don’t know how you take the victim and make him the person I somehow hate the most, but congrats Fred Durst on somehow pulling that off because he’s written to just be the most disgustingly unlikable person. It’s weird, it’s almost like making your villain an obviously mentally ill person means there’s no fun to be had and that every single person involved becomes completely unlikable. No one to root for, no one to like, there’s nothing here to even remotely enjoy. I can’t even enjoy it as a viscerally shocking movie because there’s nothing here that’s even shocking, it’s just unpleasant.
The Fanatic more than earns its reputation as utter garbage. It wants to be Misery and ends up just being miserable. It’s a badly written, directed and acted film that didn’t need to exist. Nothing about it even remotely works and I spent the entire time just wishing someone would get Moose some help and that my downloaded copy would be broken so I wouldn’t have to finish it. Utter garbage in every way, one of the more unpleasant movie watching experiences I’ve had. Fred Durst, please do me a favour and never make another movie ever again. It’s just better for everyone.