Yep, THE FANATIC.
The horror movie directed by Fred Durst, and from the trailers looks like it’s about John Travolta going full Simple Jack for an hour and a half.
Continuing the 2019 trend of movies being way better than they had any right to be (THE BANANA SPLITS, CHILD’S PLAY, MA), THE FANATIC is freaking great. I know, I can’t believe it either. After all, it’s directed by the lead singer of Limp Bizkit, a band whose oeuvre is the sonic equivalent of your older brother slapping you across the face with your own hand and repeatedly asking “WHY YOU HITTING YOURSELF?!?!?!” One might imagine said movie to be an extended, incoherent music video set to a tedious rap rock soundtrack and rife with vaping because it’s 2019.
John Travolta plays loner autograph-obsessive Moose, and it’s the second best role of his career (the first being FACE/OFF, and for those keeping score at home his masterful portrayal of terrorist-for-hire Castor Troy inside of FBI agent Sean Archer’s body is still only the third-best performance in that singular film; Nicholas Cage as Sean Archer in Castor Troy’s body easily takes first, followed by Nicholas Cage’s fake mustache in the opening scene). Moose is painfully awkward, probably on the spectrum, and doesn’t seem to be aware of the concept of boundaries. And yet he’s also endearing, in a goofy overgrown-kid way, and serves as a philosophical counterpoint to cynical, scummy street-performer Todd, who’s really there to rob his audience blind. Moose might live a life of loneliness and rejection, but he’s still a wide-eyed ingenue who truly believes in the magic of Hollywood. He makes his living by pretending to be a British police officer for some reason, and his awful attempts at an English accent are one of many areas where Travolta truly shines. This weird, gritty innocence allows us to continue rooting for this bizarre man-child, even when his obsession with douchebro horror actor Hunter Dunbar takes him to some seriously dark places.
The whole cast is great here, including Devon Sawa as the aforementioned Dunbar, Anna Golja as Leah, a young paparazzo who hangs out with weirdo middle-aged men like Moose for no apparent reason, and Jacob Grodnik as the vile Todd. And that’s what really sets THE FANATIC apart. Sure, the plot is fairly predictable, but the amount of care and effort that went into creating something so ridiculous is impressive. It’s not at the level of STREET TRASH, an exploitation classic that went so far as to have a minor character record a Sinatra-esque ballad about himself to play over the end credits, but regardless of what you think of the decisions Durst makes, you can tell he’s really thought it through. One telling detail is the OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN poster in Moose’s apartment—he’s not the sort of obsessive fan we’ve seen before, one who can rattle off arcane trivia about obscure ‘70s and ‘80s horror movies at will (like I just did two sentences ago), he’s the sort of fan who likes terrible, big-budget popcorn movies and obsesses over them the way neckbeards do over Fulci or whatever. It’s different, it’s fresh, and it’s quite well-executed.
This will always be the movie the guy from Limp Bizkit directed, but I can see a world somewhere down the line where some DJ spins “Nookie” at a ‘90s throwback night and one sentient vape cloud turns to another and says, “You know the guy rapping right now did that movie THE FANATIC?”
I hope Durst keeps making movies, because he’s done something cool, and you should totally check it out.