This is a film that is currently dividing audiences left, right and centre. It’s even left some critics and audience members up in arms about the lack of political correctness and whether the portrayal of a minority is damaging. The Fanatic comes from Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, who has always had a somewhat strained relationship with his fans and critics alike – many of them criticising him for his douchebag character. In his horror feature film, he utilises known actor John Travolta, who has been quiet in recent years due to personal issues, by placing him in a celebrity obsessed culture that puts people on pedestals without truly knowing who they are.
Moose is a film fan who happens to be obsessed with Hunter Dunbar, the star of many horror movies including his favourite Space Vampires. Moose attends a book signing with his only life ambition to have Mr. Dunbar sign something unique that he can keep in his collection of celebrity signatures. Unfortunately for Moose, it turns out his idol isn’t quite the man he was hoping for him to be – he’s rude and doesn’t spare a moment of his patience to give a dedicated fan a signature. This leads Moose down a dangerous path, where his obsession with Dunbar oversteps the boundaries and starts to interfere with his personal life. As his actions consume him, Moose cannot stop until he’s made Dunbar realise just how important his fans are.
This film is currently being absolutely slated and destroyed online by critics, which is fair enough because everyone has their own opinion, but some of them seem for the wrong reasons. To criticise a film because you think it’s a poorly made film is for good reason, but many reviews seem to be written by those with a sheer hatred towards both Fred Durst and John Travolta. As previously mentioned, Durst has always had a reputation for being an egotistical asshole, but when criticising his work, it doesn’t seem fair to bring in his personality to the equation – unfortunately some of the best filmmakers tend to be people we wouldn’t want to spend time with in real life (this doesn’t extend to filmmakers who have committed criminal offences). As for John Travolta, there also seems to be a mass of commentary on how no-one likes him anymore, which seems to be more directed at him as a person than it is his work in films. Perhaps some of the bad reviews are based solely without judgment on the people involved, but many come across biased purely because the writer doesn’t like Durst or Travolta, which seems like unfair criticism.
In The Fanatic, you never truly understand who you should be rooting for, which leaves you in a state of personal torment. Neither Hunter Dunbar or Moose are particularly likeable characters – they are both too self-absorbed to see the destruction they are causing in one another’s life, because even though it seems Moose is the destroyer in this story, Dunbar could have easily prevented a lot of the reasons behind Moose’s dangerous intentions. With that said, there is a line that we try to draw to how much does Dunbar really deserve? Trying to find compassion towards him is difficult, but it is not an easy feat to agree with the things that Moose does to drastically destroy his life and career. The film makes us toy with our own moral compass and begin to question when is it too much.
There’s one big looming problem with The Fanatic that became somewhat problematic for myself and many other viewers. Even though it is not stated in the film, it’s been said online that Moose has autism. I have an experience with autism; my younger brother has autism and I worked with children and adults with it for many years in my life. Moose is almost very similar to my brother; obsessed with films, actors and would go to any lengths just to meet those who he sees as an idol in his life. But in this film, Moose is made out to be so sickened with his obsessions that he will go to any lengths to get what he wants, even if that means physically harming people. This is potentially a very dangerous portrayal of a vulnerable minority, and could really be offensive to those who have autism or know someone with autism. But there’s also the argument that Moose might not have autism, and is just an oddball. Not every weirdo in the world is on the spectrum, and it’s almost offensive to suggest that every strange person must have autism, because that’s not true. So, does Moose have autism? I cannot be the decider of that, that would be a question only answered by Durst himself. However, if he does indeed have autism then the representation in this film is very off and should have been considered with far more caution and respect.
What The Fanatic does do is focus on fan culture, something which can actually be very dangerous for those on the receiving end. Anyone who is the creator of anything, be that music, film, stories, photography etc will know that without fans they would not have the popularity, the sales, the recognition that they have, therefore they must appreciate their fans for how they have helped them to succeed. But there’s also the argument that these creators are still human and need to receive respect from their fans in terms of boundaries and letting them have a personal life in private.
The Fanatic is a drastic look at the dangers of fan culture, idolisation and obsession.