‘The Fan’ One of the Creepiest Sports Thrillers Ever


A while back I wrote how the horror genre needs to be a bit more anachronistic than it is right now. 1996’s The Fan proved this to be true. A creepy thriller based in the world of Major League Baseball, the film follow’s Gil Renard’s (played by a delightfully unhinged Robert De Niro) obsession with the game and San Francisco Giants superstar Bobby Rayburn (played by Wesley Snipes). Rayburn, who is one of the greatest players of the game, is recently acquired from the Atlanta Braves (this was back in the glorious days of Greg Maddux and multiple World Series appearances).

Renard is down-on-his-luck guy, which by any order would warrant a little bit of empathy from the audience. However, he lets his relationship with his son and his job suffer due to his obsession with the game, which in all actuality warrants this guy the title of World Class Jerk, with a capital J. He’s a Rayburn fan first and foremost, so the trade to his home team is a match made in heaven for the guy. But when Rayburn’s performance sags, Renard believes he has to take it into his hands in order to reverse Rayburn’s luck. Problem is, he does so at the very bloody expense of Rayburn’s teammate Juan Primo (Benicio Del Toro).

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The film steams towards an explosive climax, which for spoiler’s sake I won’t delve into too much detail here. Suffice to say, Renard’s sanity does a swan dive through the rest of the film. Of course, this happens in such a manner that De Niro is well known for. Snipes plays the jaded celebrity bit well, and his transformation from uppity athlete to sympathetic character is done in a smooth manner.

The film’s chief subject is obsession, which in itself is terrifying. But the fact that it takes it one step further into the obsession of sport’s fans makes the movie even more intense. Sports fans can be creepy, insane, and downright disturbing no matter what the sport is. Following along with Renard, we see a fan who actually goes through with actions that other psycho fans may have considered at one point or another.

With that being said, The Fan is a genuinely disturbing because it ventures into one man’s deranged mind. It doesn’t hurt that said man is De Niro, but all kidding aside, this movie is the real deal when it comes to scary trips through the psyche of a deranged fan. Still, it’s a fun movie to watch. It’s visceral, obscene, and memorable. Play ball!