You know, as a geek, there something that’s a bit irresistible when it comes to gazing deep into our bellybuttons and staring at our fandom in the mirror. It’s interesting then that so often movies about fandom leans more towards the dark as fandom can be pretty gross and caustic.
Fans are not always the best people out there, let’s be honest.
Enter FADE TO BLACK, a film about a man so obsessed with the movies that he decides to start living one.
FADE TO BLACK tells the story of a young man played by actor Dennis Christopher who loves movies. He doesn’t just love movies though; he obsesses over them. When he isn’t watching them at his aunt’s home, he is working at an advertising company that works adjacent to the industry. Eric Binford is a man lost in his fandom and isolated because of it. When he happens upon a young woman who wants to break into film and happens to look strikingly similar to Marilyn Monroe his obsession gains a target as he tries to woo her. Bit by bit the thin grasp on reality Eric has slips from his grasp and he begins lashing out at the bullies in his life through the guise of film characters he loves and admires creating a movie of his own in the process.
Fade is a forgotten film in many ways, despite its fans. It features a gripping and scenery chewing performance from Christopher, an early turn by Mickey Rourke, and is a love letter to the movies. It’s gorgeously shot and delightfully strange. It’s weird though, looking at it now, because it feels a bit like a creepy internet troll manifesto mixed with some incelism. Eric is a nice guy, to a point, but his film obsession is deep that he is disconnected from reality completely. We learn that there’s a reason for this, but it doesn’t excuse his meanness and trollish behavior towards people not into movies the way he is. He becomes the sort of fan we all have met, that lords their knowledge of their fandom over all who are not into that thing the same way. You seem them at trivia nights, conventions, and all over the internet forums. It’s fandom taken too far. Too seriously. Fandom as a sword to keep others away. Eric has worked so hard to escape a reality he abhors that he has run right into a wall. The best he can hope for in the end, his happy ending, is to emulate a big screen finale, guns a’blazing.
He is no hero though; he is just another angry young man with nowhere to put the feelings he’s learned to hide away. Eric is a sad reflection of all the passionate young people who have been forced to hide their passions, to hide their feelings, and who, now grown, have no way to process those things in a healthy way.
Fandom turns to obsession turns to addiction.
Eric connects with people like me because we see ourselves in him, lonely and isolated and backed into the corner of our fandom where we hope to connect with others. His is a character that, if able to exist NOW and not in 1980 he may have found his ‘tribe’, though he also may have been even more dangerous if he connected with the wrong people, as so many do.
This isn’t the film that TAXI DRIVER is, to be sure, but it’s an interesting portrait of youth gone made and loneliness turned violent.
Let’s hope the days of this film being forgotten are long gone.
3.5 out of 5