Fun Stuff

Fred Durst's "The Fanatic" – A Review (Kinda)

If you were with me last week, Dear Reader, you would know I wrote about my curiosity concerning what Fred Durst, lead singer of 00’s rap/rock band Limp Bizkit, is doing now, and I discovered he’s made a few movies including a brand new one starring John Travolta. As someone who loves both Grease and that “Faith” cover, I knew I absolutely had to watch it. So I’m sitting down to do that now. The following will be my thoughts, “live” as I go. Needless to say, spoilers ahead. And if you want a real review, that’s down here.

PRETZEL FANG! Are you confused already? Yeah, me too.

Has it just been a long time since I’ve seen a movie or are there always this many media companies that produce a film? This doesn’t bode well.

In the first three minutes, here are things I like: the music, the establishing shots, that artwork that was very weirdly placed and I think meant to be a title card even though it didn’t have the title on it, and John mother-fucking Travolta wholly embodying this character. He hasn’t spoken yet, but I am legit enthralled.

“I can’t talk too long I gotta poo.” #same

I don’t know that an $800 collector item would be under a counter and brought out by the owner’s bare hands and not in a protective case displayed in the window, but I’ve never been to Hollywood, so…GIVE HIM THE VEST.

Is it weird that I like this future psycho’s apartment?

Leah’s aesthetic is exactly what I imagined when I first heard her voice.

Okay here’s something else I like. Moose, Travolta’s character, is a weird guy, but when he sneaks into this fancy party, people are nice to him. They aren’t snarky LA-types like you might expect a movie to portray these kind of people. Maybe that’s not realistic, but I appreciate it.

FUCK YOU, TODD.

Hunter is full of shit.

LEAH, DON’T EAT THAT FRENCH FRY, JESUS, THE EAR WAX.

After seeing how they’re portraying Moose, I’m starting to wonder what the moral of this story is going to be.

The bad guys are vaping because, of course.

The housekeeper planning to bash this dude’s head in with a mock Oscar is everything. (Why it’s not an actual replica is beyond me, maybe they need rights to use it? It would just make more sense if it were a real award since, in The Fanatic universe, Ben Affleck and Jamie Lee Curtis exist.)

Hunter is a confusing character.

Moose thinking there would be a “laser” for an alarm on a celebrity’s house is a really, REALLY good detail.

Um…is this a good movie?

Even at this creepy point where Moose has been hiding in Hunter’s house and Moose is like taking photos with him while he’s sleeping and stuff, I still have sympathy for Moose.

THEY’RE PLAYING LIMP BIZKIT. OMG AND THEY NAMED THE BAND TOO. NICE PRODUCT PLACEMENT, FRED.

Hunter has weird aggression issues. He goes real psycho on Moose, and I guess I get it, but it’s strange.

Wait, NO ONE EVER FOUND DORA’S BODY???

I wonder if John Travolta did his own stunts.

Hunter’s ex-wife should have been the actress in the movie with Hunter when he plays Rico. #theonlymistake

I love (sarcasm) that the characters refer to their social media as “my social media” to avoid saying Instagram or Facebook. I’ll admit I prefer it over making up a fake app like “FaceSpace” or whatever, but this does sound clunky. I think the solution here is this: Instead of “You can’t post photos like this on your social media” your character just says “You can’t post photos like this online!” and instead of “I’m blocking you on my social media!” you just say “I’m blocking you!” The audience is smart enough to fill in the blank, trust us.

They brought back the drawings which, again, I like in theory, it’s just weird we didn’t get one for so long. Then we got two close together, and that was it. It’s like the songs in Frozen: they aren’t evenly spaced enough to make the movie feel like a proper musical so they just end up being weird except “Let It Go” is amazing, so you’re kinda okay with it? And those drawings are very interesting, so I’m kinda okay with it?

OH SHIT, WHAT A TURN WE HAVE TAKEN.

Grown Devon Sawa is like a hotter Jeremy Renner.

Everything Hunter is doing in this situation is what I’d like to imagine I would do. Like, he’s a smart victim. Wait okay no, he didn’t get totally untied before he showed his hand. Big mistake, buddy.

OMG. WAIT.

Wait, no, WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING????????????????????

HOW THE TURN TABLES PART DEUX?

HOLY SHIT PART THREE, RETURN OF THE TABLES!

Listen, I know that was just a bunch of capital letters at the end there, but basically, that’s how my brain was processing the climax.

So, I texted Husband when it was all over and told him, “That movie was actually pretty good,” and he looked it up and said it only had a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. SEVENTEEN. That’s fucking low, and frankly way too low for this movie, and now I feel like I need to legit defend it, so you know what? I’m going to. Here’s a real review:

The Fanatic – A review for real

I’m just going to say it: I liked Fred Durst’s The Fanatic. I was prepared, when I discovered it, to hate it, and then when I watched the trailer I was prepared to be surprised but ultimately disappointed. But you know what? I’m only surprised! And plesantly at that!

The Fanatic is billed as a thriller, but I would actually call it a character study with thriller undertones (though I get that doesn’t sell as well). We follow Moose, played by John Travolta, as he spirals into his obsession with actor Hunter Dunbar, played by a grown-ass Devon Sawa (yes, the Casper kid). We watch Moose, who is socially challenged and probably autistic, make a series of increasingly bad decisions while being both bolstered and torn down by those around him, ultimately leading to him imprisoning Hunter in his own home Misery-style.

I can understand why people would have issues with this film, but I think its biggest detriments to start off are probably the names attached to it. Fred Durst doesn’t garner a lot of respect and neither does John Travolta. Reviewers are going into this thing with a huge chip on their shoulders already, there’s no way they aren’t. That isn’t to say they’re all being unfair to the acting or the plot, and there’s something to be said for a consensus, but it’s likely many people are pre-judging this film. Hell, I was.

There are issues here, though, like the voice over. Moose’s BBF (which I believe means best bud forever) is a paparazzi photographer named Leah (Ana Golja), and she is tasked with narration throughout that feels ham-fisted and useless. I appreciated the broadening of her role, I just don’t think any of the lines actually added to the story in a meaningful way. The narration just sort of told the audience what to think, but the movie seemed to be doing a good enough job of that on its own by showing us. She tells us that Moose is scared while we see Moose cradling a candle and rocking back and forth being, well, scared. That was enough.

Similarly, I’m sure some viewers have a problem with Travolta’s depiction of someone who is autistic. Moose is never explicitly diagnosed with anything as far as the viewer knows, and he is clearly high-functioning as he lives alone, but is very socially awkward and has peculiar ticks like rubbing the inside of his ear and sniffing it and rocking back and forth when overwhelmed with emotion. I can see how this depiction coupled with the fact that Moose ultimately commits several violent crimes isn’t a good look for the autistic community, and I don’t believe assumptions should be made about people because of their diagnoses for the most part, but a diagnosis certainly doesn’t absolve anyone from being capable of a crime. (I mean, unless we’re talking about being quadriplegic and, like, strangling someone, but I believe in being handicapable. Anyone can strangle anyone else with enough determination!)

I don’t know how to rectify this, and I too have trouble with it. For instance, of course women are capable of being murderers: it’s offensive to hold an entire gender up on a pedestal, but when women are only depicted in film as murdering their partners in crazy, jealous rages, then there’s a problem. Of course this happens, but how frequently? Not as much as movies would make you think (and certainly less than how often men murder their female partners). Similarly, there are so few people with autism depicted in movies at all, so when they are, you’d really rather them not all be violent weirdos. I get it. Like I said, though, I can’t rectify it except with this: Moose is not motivated by his autism.

We see Moose’s reactions to negative forces on him evolve. When the shop owner won’t initially sell Moose the movie paraphernalia, Moose is upset, but never resorts to violence. Similarly, his only reaction to a fight with Leah is to flip her off, and Leah’s nonchalance about pissing Moose off suggests Moose has no violent history. Moose’s evolution to violent behavior is only in retaliation to people being violent toward him. He defends himself against Todd, a fellow busker who bullies him throughout the film, and even Dora, Hunter’s housekeeper. True, he doesn’t seem to understand his own strength when he hits Dora, but he only does so because she was hitting him first, and (spoiler) her death is ultimately the result of an accident. He does struggle with his instinctive reactions to things when they become violent, but he doesn’t seem to have the capacity to fully understand what he’s doing; however, I think I’d argue that most people, if they got in as deep as Moose does by tying someone to a bed and holding them hostage, would mentally break in a way where they would lose the ability to understand what’s going on regardless.

On the flip side, Moose is complex, and I find his character well fleshed out in many ways. He has a real personality, and I was sympathetic to him throughout the entirety of the movie, even when he was being a total creep and a murderer. I wanted him to make good choices (even though I knew he wouldn’t) because I understood his intentions were good. His strange mannerisms should have made him unlikable, but he makes a valiant effort to be polite, he’s often kind, and he’s passionate about his hobbies. And all of this was in spite of the fact that his backstory is not fleshed out at all. There is a single flashback scene of Moose as a child, sitting on his couch watching Night of the Living Dead while his parents (possibly just his mother and a boyfriend?) are making out in the kitchen. It is inferred he can hear them, and his mother’s moaning is juxtaposed by the dialogue in the classic horror film: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!” I don’t know what this was supposed to be saying since Moose doesn’t seem to have any “mommy issues,” but overall it just seemed like a really poor setup to explain Moose’s social issues. Frankly, that should have been left out all together; Moose was sympathetic without it.

However, I did ask myself, if Hunter, the object of his obsession, had been a woman, would I still have been sympathetic to Moose? I’ll never know, but this is another way in which I think the movie really succeeds, for me. Moose is never sexual with anyone. He treats Leah like a genuine, platonic friend. They tell each other they love one another, and you know it’s without romance and mutually appreciated. Moose also has an early interaction with an actress at a party. He clearly admires her, tells her he loves her work, and I was expecting him to comment on her physically, but he never does. He respects her as an actress and a person. It would have been so easy for the writers to get Moose kicked out of the party by making him hit on her or make her uncomfortable by harassing her, but instead they chose to go a different route, and I appreciate that decision wholeheartedly.

Also, Moose is never sexual with Hunter. He does tie him to a bed, but it’s likely because that’s what he’s seen in movies, and also because Hunter clearly was already in the bed, passed out on his sleeping pills, and couldn’t be moved. To explain Moose’s obsession with Hunter and his respect for the women in his life, he could have easily and lazily been written as gay, but the writers made another good choice, I think, in not making Moose sexually motivated at all from what we see. We don’t know his orientation, and it never really matters. It was a lot more pleasant to watch a thriller/horror film without the usual rape-y overtones, and again, where it may have been easy and even “natural” to add that in, they chose not to, and I appreciated that.

While I feel like The Fanatic succeeded overall in Moose’s character study, I’m not so sure about Hunter, though I do think it tried. I didn’t know what I was supposed to think of Hunter for a lot of the film which could be perceived as a good thing: he’s complex too. But I think my confusion actually came from the mixed signals the movie gave me which is a bad thing. We meet his ex-wife who is pissed off at him for not being available when he was supposed to watch their son. This is presented as being true: Hunter forgot and chose work over his own kid. Additionally, he “apologizes” to his ex by saying he’ll let her “have it out” with him the next day on the phone, and she responds by letting him know he’s a “good actor” and basically calling him a dick. It’s easy to sympathize with her here (who thinks that giving someone the opportunity to yell at them is a gift?), especially when right after he is a big ‘ole jerk to Moose, but later all of this is undone as he refers to the ex-wife as being on a bender and that’s why he has his son for a week, and then by demonstrably being a good father (except referring to himself as “Mr. Mom” when he has his kid–that shit ain’t cute, you’re a parent, so just fucking be one, dude).

Hunter also kisses his housekeeper, Dora, but he does so when she is very upset (after being scared by Moose) so she’s vulnerable. I found this really slimy, especially after his wife pointed out he was a “good actor,” but then he’s still kind to Dora after she says she can’t kiss him anymore (though why she can’t, I don’t know!), and even when he’s alone he clearly feels regret for having made her uncomfortable which makes the original kiss–if it actually came from an authentic place–not slimy! So, see? I don’t know, very confusing.

Hunter’s anger issues are a whole other facet to his character. They’re not really explained further than he misses his wife and, I guess, his steady personal life, but he’s still getting invited to parties, there are huge lines for his autograph, and he’s even turning down roles to hold out for more money, so his career seems intact, and his relationship with his son is pretty good. He takes sleeping pills amongst other medications on his bathroom vanity, but there’s no reference to hard drugs or other vices. I’m not saying these things are necessary for anger, but we never learn the why. Hunter even admits to having a problem, but a reason isn’t really given. All we know is that he is very protective of his child (understandable), but when he feels threatened by Moose, he decides to take matters into his own hands, scream in his face, insult him, assault him, and threaten him, but he never calls the police or documents anything. He doesn’t even have security cameras which is weird for someone so famous and so quick to assume someone else is a threat.

The climax of all this is (major spoiler) when Hunter finally frees himself after being tied up by Moose. Obviously he attacks Moose in order to get away, but he again never contacts the police, and in fact begins to torture Moose in return. Where Moose never intends to hurt Hunter, Hunter is quite malicious in his defense. I would not have blamed Hunter for shooting Moose in the head…and omg I just realized they were named after an animal and a person who shoots animals, and Hunter even uses a shotgun, and…ok…that’s a lot. I need a minute.

Anyway, like I said, I wouldn’t have blamed Hunter for killing Moose, but instead he shoots off his fingers, drags him through the house, shoots next to his head to frighten and deafen him, and then stabs out his eye. It’s pretty egregious and, while I appreciate revenge in horror films where the victim gets back at their would-be killer, this is very different because we know Moose’s intent, and we know Moose was in the process of letting Hunter go when he turned the tables on his kidnapper.

Hunter is painted as the villain throughout a lot of the movie, though I think they were trying to make him a sympathetic one, or at least a loving father so his actions seem somewhat justified? We don’t really want to see Moose kill him at any point, even by accident, and I don’t think that’s just because we like Moose and don’t want him to become a murderer (again…intentionally). Hunter even wraps up Moose’s bleeding hand and lets him go after he has a moment of horrified clarity with himself after he does the intense eye-stabbing thing, so he’s, like, redeemable here, right? Except there’s also a suggestion that Hunter will be framed for Dora’s death in the end, and I’m not sure if we’re supposed to think that’s justifiable or not. It also would never hold up, I mean, Moose’s DNA and freaking EYEBALL are all over the crime scene, and I just don’t think Moose would be a convincing enough liar to get the police to believe him if he tried to say he had been tied up instead and Hunter was just on a murder rampage, but because of that whole narration thing, we’re to believe the end is tidy as it’s shown which is basically Hunter being handcuffed and put in a cop car. It’s very confusing, and that’s my biggest issue with the movie: what’s the moral?

See, Moose has this fantasy after he has Hunter tied up. Moose re-imagines his first encounter with Hunter at the book signing, but in the fantasy, the actor is nice to him. The suggestion is obviously oh, if only Hunter had been kind, then none of this would have happened to him: not being stalked, tied up, or framed for murder with inevitably his whole career and life ruined. But like…that’s a rough suggestion. Yes, it is satisfying to see cruel people get what they deserve, to see the irredeemable villain go to jail or get shot in the head, but this wasn’t that.

Even though Hunter was a dick a lot, and even though he was needlessly callous to Moose, he was kind of in the right. If you put yourself in his position: you don’t want a fan stalking you. Even going all the way back to their first encounter when Hunter refuses to sign Moose’s memorabilia because he’d just gotten into a fight with his ex-wife it’s like…people are allowed to have bad days? People are allowed to be angry, and they don’t owe you anything. It’s just like when some guy walks up to me in the grocery store, looks me up and down, and asks me if I have a boyfriend while licking his lips. I don’t owe him shit, and if he tries to run me over with his car in the parking lot, I certainly don’t deserve it just because I told him to get the fuck out of the way because he was blocking the dairy aisle.

But I don’t think the movie is saying that, not exactly. And I appreciate that there isn’t exactly a villain with how both Hunter and Moose are portrayed, I just think the movie didn’t know exactly what it accidentally might have said in the end. Or it did, I mean, Durst has been divorced three times, so…

I’d give it 3/5 stars which is a positive review and certainly more than 17%! But even the audience score for this thing is at 35%! What the hell, I guess my taste is just fucking trash now. Dear Reader, help me!

2 thoughts on “Fred Durst's "The Fanatic" – A Review (Kinda)”

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