Number One Stalker: "The Fanatic" a low-rent stalker thriller with an embarrassing, tic-laden performance from John Travolta
The Fanatic (2019)
Release Date: August 30, 2019 (Limited); September 6, 2019 (VOD)
Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst (2008’s “The Longshots”) makes his third feature-directing swing with “The Fanatic,” a lower-rent rehash of 1996’s Robert De Niro-Wesley Snipes thriller “The Fan,” 2004's ridiculous "Paparazzi," and, apparently, Durst's personal experience with a stalker. John Travolta playing the titular fanatic might be the film’s one selling point, but the idea of the casting is more intriguing than the actual execution. It wants to be a serious psychological thriller about obsession and how celebrities wouldn’t exist without their fans, but fails miserably on that level, and even if it wanted to just settle for cheap thrills, there are none. “The Fanatic” is a bust, even as trash cinema.
Moonlighting as a failed street act that of a London bobby on Hollywood Boulevard, stuttering, socially inept Moose (John Travolta) is a diehard—nay, unhealthy—fan of horror-action movie star Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa), collecting paraphernalia from every one of Hunter's movies. When he stands in line to get an autograph from the celebrity, Moose is intensely disappointed to see Hunter leave the signing table before his turn is up, so he confronts Hunter outside with no luck. Immediately, Moose enlists the help of his paparazzo friend, Leah (Ana Golja), to find out where Hunter lives. When Moose shows up at Hunter’s private residence to find him and his son outside, the superstar not-so-politely tells him to leave and to never show his face again. Moose doesn’t stop there.
Though the actor has not been discriminating with his recent on-screen roles—sure, “Gotti” was memorable for the wrong reasons, but did anyone see, let alone hear of, “I Am Wrath,” “Speed Kills,” or “Trading Paint”?—John Travolta is begging to be seen, as he tries his hardest as Hawaiian shirt-donning stalker Moose, who sports a bowl-cut mullet and never leaves home without his backpack. Travolta dials his intensely broad, mannered, tic-laden performance up to eleven and fully commits to his acting choices (even that awful London bobby act), but unfortunately, his efforts are often more embarrassing and meme-ready than menacing or frightening. As Hunter Dunbar, Devon Sawa comes off arrogant and even more threatening and volatile than Moose that one wonders what film might have been if the lead actors switched roles, and yet the world will never know. Ana Golja is intended to be the heart of the film as Moose’s only friend Leah, but their friendship is severely undernourished, and yet she gives a soft-spoken voice-over narration that adds nothing.
How the viewer is supposed to feel about Moose becomes severely muddled throughout "The Fanatic." Aside from a perfunctory flashback of a young Moose sitting in front of the TV, obsessed with "Night of the Living Dead," while his mother entertains a suitor, the script by Fred Durst and tyro writer Dave Bekerman is generic and by-the-numbers, never exploring Moose on a deeper level or even addressing if he is, indeed, on the spectrum. If Moose does have a form of autism, Durst poorly handles his character to an exploitative, irresponsible degree, vilifying someone with autism as an unhinged and violent predator if not watched closely. The film is also technically flat and bereft of suspense, no matter how much electronic music Fred Durst employs when things heat up. And, speaking of music, “Limp Bizkit” gets name-dropped when Hunter introduces his son to one of the band’s songs, and it’s a shameless, self-serving groaner. If there’s anything to remotely recommend about “The Fanatic,” it is watching John Travolta go all in as The Fan From Hell as if his life depended on it. With him, this is still one of the dullest and most anticlimactic stalker thrillers in recent memory.