Release: August 30, 2019
Director: Fred Durst
Screenplay: Fred Durst and Dave Bekerman
Starring: John Travolta as Moose, Devon Sawa as Hunter Dunbar, Anna Golja as Leah, Jacob Grodnik as Todd, and James Paxton as Slim
Running Time: 88 minutes
Moose is a severely mentally ill man with a fondness for horror, specifically the work of an actor named Hunter Dunbar. Moose’s best friend Leah, a young paparazzo, sneaks him into a swanky party that she believes Dunbar will be attending. Unfortunately, the party ends up being a bust. Dunbar is not in attendance, and Moose’s bizarre behaviour attracts the attention of security who eject him from the party. After work the next day, Moose goes to his favourite memorabilia shop for Hunter Dunbar’s book signing. An impromptu visit from Dunbar’s ex wife and an unwanted intercession from Moose cause Dunbar to leave the signing early. Later, Moose asks Leah how she finds out where celebrities live and she shows him a “star map” app, which Moose uses to find Dunbar’s address. He shows up at Dunbar’s front gate seeking to give him a letter, and to solicit an autograph. Moose is told to leave and never return, but Moose keeps returning, growing ever more bold with each visit. During one of his incursions, he gets into a scuffle with the housekeeper and accidentally kills her by throwing her down against a concrete fountain. One night, Dunbar awakens to find himself tied to his bed with Moose lying on the floor, apparently dead of suicide. When Dunbar screams in panic, Moose springs back to life and laughs at having pranked his favourite actor. Dunbar eventually convinces Moose to free him and then attacks him with a rifle hidden above the headboard, shooting off his fingers. As he is about to be dispatched, Moose begins to cry, causing Dunbar to have a change of heart and let him leave the house. As Moose, bleeding profusely, stumbles down Hollywood Boulevard, the police arrive to arrest Hunter Dunbar for the murder of the housekeeper.
The Fanatic has been, I feel, unjustly pelted with ridiculous criticisms and outright invective. Dismissed as a “hollow examination of toxic fan culture” by certain site with, at this point, very spurious credibility. I don’t know what some of these people were expecting, but this is not an art film. This is an 88 minute, basically direct to video horror flick in the tradition of some of the low budget offerings of the 80s and 90s. This is not some deep “well what is it that really makes a stalker” kind of thing. It’s horror flick in search of an easy motivation for its main character/antagonist. Do we really need to get into minutia of Moose’s upbringing? His relationship with his father? For what it is, The Fanatic does an adequate job of documenting the transition from adulation to obsession to hatred. It doesn’t need to be a deep exploration. This is not an Oscar bait picture. Again, it’s just a simple low budget horror flick. I’ve seen even some of the most outlandishly negative reviews offer at least some praise for Travolta’s turn as Moose, and I can definitely see why. I have seen Academy Award nominated portrayals of mental illness that don’t do so well (I Am Sam).
I think, in the metal blogosphere at least, a lot of what caused such seething hatred to be directed toward this film is who the director is. Yes, I get it, you dislike Limp Bizkit, so do I. In fact, I’ve consistently disliked them for the last two decades. Limp Bizkit stands unique as the only Nu Metal band that you didn’t have to start pretending to like once the calendar hit 2009 and the late Gen X and early Millennial crowd started to get nostalgic for their high school years. It’s true, Wes Borland can’t write a riff to save his life. DJs have no place in Rock. As a rapper, Fred Durst has all the flow of an enlarged prostate, as a singer he carries a tune like an asthmatic chipmunk going through puberty, and he has all the lyrical prowess of an 11-year-old who just saw his first naked lady. That being said, as a first time purveyor of low budget horror, I found him to be quite adequate. I’ve seen better, yes, much better. However, this is not the earth rending train wreck that I was promised. I dare say, this is one area where America’s foremost red baseball cap aficionado actually has some potential to turn out something that could be legitimately good, if not necessarily outstanding.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Fanatic. Give it a look, you might be surprised yourself. Maybe they should have had John Travolta smear his face in clown makeup, colour corrected it, and slapped a DC logo on it.