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The Fanatic (2019)

I never thought I'd see the day I'd sit down to watch a horror film that had John Travolta as the lead antagonist/protagonist, portraying an autistic man with an uncontrollable obsession with his favourite celebrity action hero - directed by New Metal sensation Fred Durst, yet, here we are. This film came out to quite wide spread negative reviews and is one I have been curious about for some time, so the question is, is it really that bad?

One of the most surprising elements about this entire production is that the directing and writing standard from Durst is actually rather competent. Don't get me wrong, It's not perfect, and there are more than a few moments that showed the amateur aspects of his capability. For instance, there are interwoven animated cut scenes that don't quite hold the flow and pace of the story. I found these moments detracted from the overall momentum of the plot. His biggest mistake though was having has the audacity to use one of his own songs and have his lead actor quoting the bands name and referring to them as "Hot". Knowing Durst directed this, when this scene came on it felt very egotistical and unnecessary.

The plot itself is actually rather coherent. It all unfolds at a nice consistent pace resulting in a rather thrilling closing 15 to 20 minutes. There was more than a few times I was at the edge of my seat due to the carefully built scenes of tension. It's certainly an interesting idea, I just found it to be a mistake to use such a highly regarded act as Travolta in a role like this. Casting an unknown would have made for a much more believable and convincing storyline for me. I couldn't see the character, just the actor. For me that was a shame, and I think I would have had an entirely different outlook on this film had someone else been cast.

Tonely I found 'The Fanatic' to be all over the place. It just couldn't seem to find what direction it wanted to take itself, something that in the hands of a much more competent and experienced writer/director can work wonderfully. Here it just plays out scattered, sharply shifting from one emotion to the other with natural flow to it. Having scenes that I can only assume were played out with the intention of being comedic, and some of the dialogue most certainly intended on being funny - it just didn't land at all. Then often from these moments, we're taken into something quite dark and then back again, as though the previous scene hadn't happened. As a viewer I found that there wasn't enough time between these transitions for it be a comfortable watch.

As overall confusing as this film was, it was equally confusing as to why such a seasoned actor as Travolta was tempted by a role like this. His involvement really had me question what had happened in his career to make him agree to this film. Taking on a role such as this is a bold choice for any actor, let alone someone who so well established as Travolta. I must say though, even given how bizarre if felt in the first 10 minutes or so, to see him play this role (once that initial shock factor wore off and I started to sink into the story) I was so impressed by his performance. Not that I expected anything less. Sawa is also great and he too does extremely well in a film that doesn't require his overly qualified performance here. It's good to see him getting a resurgence in his career lately, and I hope he makes more of a return to the horror genre.

I would hate to think that the poor reception of this film would deter Durst from directing future projects, especially within the horror genre. I felt he showed moments of potential within this film. Unfortunately, I think this film was not a great starting point for him. Something a little less controversial and with less star pulling power would have been more helpful as a stepping stone in his career within this industry - this would have given him the chance to make mistakes and not be so widely noted. This was an entertaining watch and I would recommend it, just not for the right reasons.



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