PLOT: When obsessed movie fan Moose gets snubbed by actor Hunter Dunbar at a signing, he goes way too far on a quest to get the autograph he believes he deserves.
REVIEW: It will only take a quick glance for certain potential viewers to write off THE FANATIC, as it's a movie that stars John Travolta – an actor not known for making consistently good career choices – with an odd hair style sitting on his head, and was directed by Fred Durst. Yes, the Limp Bizkit frontman who "did it all for the nookie". That may not sound like a good time to some, while others will probably go into it expecting it to be bad, curious to find out just how bad it is.
The answer I found was, it's not bad at all. In fact, I would verge on calling it great; the one negative I could point out is simply a nitpick. The film features an occasional voiceover that I felt could have been dropped. Beyond that, I thought THE FANATIC was a captivating, emotionally engaging thrill ride.
Scripted by Dave Bekerman and Durst, who apparently drew inspiration from an encounter he had with a fan years ago, THE FANATIC casts Travolta in the role of Moose, a big-time movie lover who makes money playing a character on Hollywood Boulevard and very clearly has some kind of mental disability. Moose is a firm believer that people need "good-tasting treats and horror pictures" in their lives, and one actor he really likes is "horror hero" Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). Moose is extremely hyped when he finds out he has the chance to meet Hunter and get an autograph from him at a signing event… Unfortunately, personal issues pull Hunter away from the event just before Moose can get his autograph, and Hunter so rudely snubs him that it sets him off on a quest to get the autograph he believes he deserves, no matter what he has to do to get it.
Moose doesn't understand the concept of boundaries. He doesn't realize that he's crossing a line when he trespasses on Hunter's property, enters his house, goes through his personal possessions, uses his toothbrush. When confronted about this behavior, Moose is insulted and upset that someone would think he's a stalker. He is a very simple guy, which makes him a sympathetic character to watch. He does some very bad things, we condemn his actions, but at the same time the worst thing about seeing him initiate dangerous situations is the idea that he might get hurt as a result.
It's easier to sympathize with Moose given the fact that Hunter Dunbar is such a hot-headed douchebag. While there a couple scenes that humanize him, for the most part what we see out of Hunter is inappopriate and bullying behavior. If he could recognize that Moose has issues, treat him calmly and with respect, and just give him an autograph, the movie would have been over in 20 minutes. But instead Hunter meets Moose with anger and physical threats, escalating the situation until it's completely out of control.
There are a few explosions of violence in this film, and even though I frequently enjoy seeing violence in my entertainment, this is not a time when I felt good about the violent acts I was seeing (except for one). I didn't want things to go that far, it didn't have to be that way. During one of these violent scenes, Durst includes a wonderful moment where the person doling out the violence becomes disgusted by it.
Some viewers may get defensive over the notion that Durst and Travolta are trying to say Moose is representative of the average horror fan. Although there's not a voice of horror-loving reason around, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they did not intend Moose to be a stand-in for all horror fans. This is simply the unique character they created together, he doesn't represent anyone other than himself. Travolta fully committed to bringing Moose to life, and did an incredible job of it.
Horror fans do get some references to chuckle at in THE FANATIC. A nod to MANIAC, mention of Freddy Krueger, the awesome sight of Travolta wearing Jason Voorhees' hockey mask. There's a moment I loved where watching NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD stirs up a memory of Moose's childhood. And speaking of amusing references, I couldn't help but laugh when Hunter cranks up some Limp Bizkit on the radio.
I didn't go into this film with any misgivings about the involvement of Travolta or Durst and still found it to be much better than expected. I was thoroughly wrapped up in it from beginning to end and encourage thriller fans to check it out, even if they aren't already fans of the star and director.
Quiver Distribution will be giving THE FANATIC a theatrical and VOD release on August 30th.