By Guest Reviewer Andrew Belonsky from Queerty.com
It may not be the case anymore, but it used to be that if a screenwriter or author needed a good villain, they would look no further than the evil fag. The homo’s deviant sexuality provided a reliable excuse – or, perhaps, symptom – of his devilish ways. The odd – and endlessly commercial – character of Norman Bates springs to mind, as does the more recent and potentially just as gay, Hannibal Lechter. Meanwhile the 1980 Al Pacino classic, Cruising, spent an entire 106 minutes exploring the “sleazy and underground” gay world in which a serial killer got his S&M fueled kicks. One year later, John Hartwell and Priscilla Chapman – neither of whom, it’s worth noting, had ever written nor would ever write another movie – adapted Bob Randall’s queer killer novel, The Fan, for the silver screen. The critics blasted the film, and for good reason, but what it lacks in depth, it makes up for by providing a study of the gay gone bad.
The Fan concerns a famous actress, Sally Ross, played by Lauren Bacall and her obsessed fan, Michael Biehn’s Douglas Breen. It’s really not worth mentioning Biehn’s character’s name, for it disappears quite quickly behind his association with fanatic insanity. He starts off innocently enough – a conspicuously single, lonely and downright pathetic record salesman who writes letters to his favorite star of screen and stage. Too busy rehearsing for a Broadway play and dealing with her ex-husband, played very briefly by James Garner, and certainly far too famous to reply to her fan’s letters, Ross pawns the job off on her secretary, a low point in Maureen Stapleton’s career. Doing her duty, the secretary sends off a gracious reply, unaware her forged sentiments will only serve to feed Breen’s madness. She should have known better, of course, for give a fag a bone and he’ll keep coming back to strike more perverse terror.
And that’s exactly what happens. Breen’s letters become more and more feverish, exuding a dangerous persistence that leads the secretary to ignore him in hopes that he’ll disappear. But Breen – whose dementia’s already over taken his last shred of rationality and, thus, identity – refuses to go away. On the contrary, he intends to get as close to Ross as possible. How? By killing all her friends, of course.
Poor Stapleton’s the first to feel the cold of his straight razor, but The Fan wastes no time going after Ross’ other comrades, including her dance partner, whom he kills in the pool in that bastion of homo-variance, the YMCA. It’s really quite gruesome. Not to mention gay: The Fan swims underneath him, slashing him from neck to crotch, his blade coming within inches of his Speedo-clad penis.
What remains unspoken – namely The Fan’s faggotry – becomes a disturbing plot device after a Detective (Hector Elizondo) gets closer to discovering the truth. Thus, he cruises on through a gay bar, finds himself a hapless homo and proceeds to get blown on the roof. His ejaculation brings the trick’s extermination as The Fan uses his gleaming blade to finish him off and burns the body, leaving a guilt-ridden suicide note to cover his tracks.
The Fan’s cumming becomes The Fan’s climax, for it’s downhill from there (as if there were an up). Seemingly free of her stalker, Ross forges forward, unaware that her first performance may be her last. I won’t give away the details of the final confrontation, but rest assured that The Fan gets what’s coming to him, appropriately punished for his not so merry, but certainly very Mary murder spree.
While the movie provides a few chills, they’re washed out by the message: the solitary gay poses a threat to you and yours. Even the lighting – a staple in thrillers – seems a bit overdone, with The Fan stalking (literally) in and out of the shadows like the dubious, dangerous villain he was born to play. Certainly a stinker through and through, the film’s worth a view, if only to laugh (and grimace) at the stereotypes it propagates.