The Fanatic is a 2019 American psychological horror-thriller film directed and co-written by Fred Durst. It stars John Travolta as Moose, an autistic man (supposedly; see the trivial below) who develops an unhealthy obsession with his favorite actor Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa), and stalks him. The film was given a limited theatrical and a VOD release, on August 30, 2019 by Quiver Distribution and Redbox Entertainment, and received mainly negative reviews, with some praise towards Travolta's performance.
The story follows Moose, who gets cheated out of meeting his favorite action hero, Hunter Dunbar. Moose then hunts down Dunbar to get the celebrity interaction he feels he deserves. Harmless at first, Moose's actions begin to take a dark turn. Against the advice of his friend Leah, Moose begins to make frequent visits to his hero's private home. As the visits continue to escalate, Dunbar finds himself in increasing danger.
Pretzel Fang produced the film with VMI Worldwide, Wonderfilm Media, Media Finance Capital, Primal Film LLC and Quiver Distribution. funded the film. In March 2018, principal photography began in Birmingham, Alabama. Redbox Entertainment also funded the film in exchange for release via the Redbox kiosks and streaming services.
Why This Movie Is Not for Fanatics
- The movie's genre and tone is confusing, as it doesn't know if it wants to be a parody of modern-day horror thrillers with dramatic elements via the main character's role or take itself seriously with those genres.
- Some of the scenes and John Travolta's acting and dialogue seem (intentionally or unintentionally) comical, making the film a bit hard to take seriously.
- The very first line of the film is "I can't talk too long, I gotta poo", not exactly a line you want to establish your movie.
- To say that the movie does a poor job at making Moose scary or menacing would be a generous understatement. The film instead portrays Moose as a completely child-like simpleton, rather than the mentally-ill nut-job he's supposed to be. He feels more like an SNL parody character than a proper horror movie villain.
- False advertising:
- The movie adverts try to make Moose out to be a murderous psychopath, especially the poster where he's shown holding a bloody knife. but in the actual movie, he is never even shown to be outright malicious or even murderous, but rather, mentally challenged and simple. Granted, he does kill Hunter's house cleaner, but even then, that's by accident.
- The film is narrated by one of the side characters, which doesn't make much sense, as she has little relevance to the plot beyond a handful of scenes.
- It's impossible really to side with either Moose or Dunbar. Moose is extremely creepy and obsessive, but due to his mental disability and lack of self-awareness (both possible signs of stereotypical Autism), it's hard to completely blame him. And while it is understandable for Hunter to be annoyed and angry at him because Moose keeps going to his property, he's also an extreme jerk who is needlessly verbally abusive and aggressive to Moose, threatening him and screaming in his face, to the point where Hunter's fate at the end feels more like karma. There are even moments where Hunter comes off as even more mentally unstable than Moose (who is more child-like and simple-minded than mentally ill), for example, the scene near the end where Hunter shoots off Moose's fingers and stabs him in the eye while Moose is defenseless out of sadism rather than self-defense, at-least Moose isn't sadistic or even murderous.
- Product placement: At one point, Dunbar plugs one of the directors' old band's (the Limp Bizkit) songs during a car ride, and talking how great it is for his son.
- When Moose accidentally kills Hunter's housekeeper, it takes days before anyone actually notices the body, despite the body being in plain sight.
- The ending makes no sense; after Hunter breaks out, he tortures Moose for a while, shooting off his fingers, then stabbing him in the eye, but instead of calling the police on Moose, he just lets Moose leave, which comes off as illogical and very out of character.
- Hunter then gets arrested for somehow killing his maid (actually done accidentally by Moose) with no proof or build-up, despite what Moose did to him, throughout the whole movie.
- Moose apparently gets away with everything, despite his injuries, and the fact that he's apparently posting everything he did on social media.
- Terrible direction by Fred Durst.
- Similar to Battlefield Earth, the acting (particularly from John Travolta) is so cheesy and over-the-top that it's funny.
- The cinematography is at least okay.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 16% based on 70 reviews, with an average score of 29%. The website's critical consensus reads: "John Travolta gives it his oddly coiffed all, but The Fanatic rings hollow as an examination of the way fan appreciation can curdle into toxic obsession." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 18 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike". It currently has a 4.2 on IMDb as well. On Letterboxd, the film has an average rating of 1.5/5.
The movie currently has a Google users rating of "56% of users liked this film".
NPR's Simon Abrams gave the film a negative review, calling it a noticeable downgrade from The Education of Charlie Banks and The Longshots, and labeling the work a "miserable psychodrama". Specific elements attracting criticism included the "cliché-filled voiceover narration" and "a bunch of scenes where Travolta zealously overacts". Glenn Kenny of The New York Times also wrote a negative review of the film, arguing that it "delineates the border that separates the merely stale from the genuinely rancid."
In a positive review, Josh Millican of Dread Central called the film "a riveting indie with genuine suspense", and he praised both Travolta's and Sawa's performances.
The film was nominated for three Golden Raspberry Awards, Worst Picture, Worst Director (Fred Durst), and Worst Actor which John Travolta won (also for his performance in Trading Paint).
- According to John Travolta himself, his character supposedly suffered from low functioning Autism to explain the character's horrible personality traits and actions throughout the film. And if that was confirmed by the director, then it really adds another problem about this movie, as promoting a negative view of the people who suffer from the disorder.
- This is the third and very likely final film, directed by Fred Durst after it did very poorly in limited theatrical release.