The Horror Honeys: All baseball fans have a favorite player. This one has a favorite target.

All baseball fans have a favorite player. This one has a favorite target.

An Opening Day Slasher Honey Tribute by Chassity 

The Fan (1996)

Once upon a time, on a bright Spring day in the 90s, my parents signed my brother and I up for little league baseball and softball. I was about six, and it was the year I went to my first Major League baseball game. 

It was also the year I saw Child’s Play, my introduction to horror movies. 

Needless to say, it was a big year. That year I fell in love twice, with the two things I’m still in love with today: horror movies, and baseball. 

So, obviously I’ve been super excited for MLB Opening Day, as I am every year. I have a tradition where shortly before Opening Day, I revisit some of my favorite baseball movies. 

This year was a little different. Because this year, as Slasher Honey, I decided to finally go back to a movie that I remember really liking: one that combines my love for thrillers (which I firmly believe is a horror subgenre and no one will ever convince me otherwise) with my love for baseball. 

The Fan is a 90s thriller film about a cocky baseball player, Bobby Rayburn, who gets traded from the Atlanta Braves to the San Francisco Giants as a highly sought after athlete at the top of his game. No one is more excited about this than longtime baseball fan and Giants fan Gil Renard, who loves Bobby as a player. But then Gil’s personal life starts to fall completely apart and Bobby goes into a slump just as Gil feels like he needs his favorite pastime to cheer him up the most. This is when the two men’s lives cross paths as Gil gets more and more dangerous in his desperate, unstable state. He forces Bobby to hit a home run for him or he’ll kill Bobby’s son, who he takes hostage, all in an attempt to teach Bobby a lesson about love for the game. 

Having revisited this film for the first time in almost 20 years, I had forgotten just how disturbing and inherently creepy it is, right down to the score. It takes something that I’ve always thought of as so pure and fun (love of a sport), and shows a different, dark side to that whole thing. The film opens with a poem about baseball, glory, and jaded athletes. Even the way Robert De Niro reads it sent chills down my spine.

I’ve always said things are scarier when they’re realistic, and the frightening truth is that there absolutely are people out there like Gil. People who take fandom too far. People who grow dangerously attached to something. But what was even scarier was the fact that there were times when it was impossible to hate Gil. Sure, he’s someone that you fear. I mean Jason, Michael, and even Jigsaw would be no match for him, in neither ability to outsmart a victim, or just the potential for pure evil. Gil is a thing of nightmares. He is not someone you want to make angry. But he is also a man who is down on his luck when we meet him, who has a cute kid that you know he really loves deep down, and who unfortunately has the potential to be quite likable and charming if he could get control of his temper. And that’s why he’s such a threat. By the time you see past that smooth-talking, witty exterior, you’re probably already in so deep that it’s too late. 

The Fan might be a baseball movie, but it is also a total slow-burn horror movie. Thrillers, to me, are the older, more mature cousin of slashers. And Gil is certainly just as much a horror movie killer as any other slasher, zombie, or supernatural entity. Jason and Michael kill for killing’s sake, and that’s scary, but Gil knows better, and still happily stabs people down over things like a baseball game and a number on a baseball jersey. 

The prototypes are also there. And they’re what I love most about this movie. From Benicio del Toro as the first-to-die minority victim (and also a major part of the inciting incident that pushes Gil over the edge), to John Leguizamo as the caring, faithful, hero’s sidekick (manager) who says slightly sexist things and whom you’re just sure is going to die before it’s over. (The film also gets extra points with me now that I’m seeing it as an adult woman and can appreciate the beauty of two of my favorite gorgeous Latino men in the same movie). 

I have to admit that watching this movie got to me. It made me look at my intense love for baseball in a different way, even causing me to question it. It made me question myself and my beliefs, because there were moments when I found myself agreeing with Gil about some of the things he said about the game and about athletes’ attitudes and work ethic in the last couple of decades. It doesn’t mean I agree with endangering the lives of little children to get the outcome you want at a sporting event, and to get your love of the game acknowledged. But still…

I almost changed my mind about adding The Fan to my lineup of baseball movies to watch as part of my Opening Night tradition before Opening Day, but decided to keep it because I really want to have one horror movie in there. It’s been a couple of days since I revisited it, and I still can’t even believe that my parents let me watch it went it came out. That is how dark, how horrific, how unsettling, and how intense it is.