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Paranoia (1998)
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by desdemona

"It's like every other horror movie you've ever seen in your life."
3 stars

This could have been a pretty good movie if it didn't rely so heavily upon the horror genre generalizations that make all horror flicks practically mirror one another. Which makes me wonder if there's some kind of "How to Make a Horror Movie For Dummies" guideline. Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me. This movie when compared with, say, ANY OTHER HORROR MOVIE EVER MADE, will simply back up that theory.

Paranoia is about Jana Mercer (Brigitte Bako), a woman that watched her entire family die at the hands of the psychotic maniac Calvin (Larry Drake) when she was just a child. The murders of her family members had an understandably severe effect on Jana. One of Jana's quirks was that she didn't like the light. When her family was killed, there was a strange, bright light following the murderer around. Because of that, Jana was afraid of the light and dwelt almost entirely in the dark.

Although her fear couldn't have been that bad; later in the movie she returns to her hometown in broad daylight and it doesn't seem to bother her that badly.

Anyway, Jana starts getting harassing phone calls from Calvin the Murderer, and that's when she discovers that he's getting out of jail soon.

And guess what he plans on doing once he gets out. Just guess. You know the answer.

One of the things Calvin tells her is that he can "FEEL" her, "SENSE" her. He is "one" with her. He experienced everything she experienced because they're connected because he didn't murder her even though he saw her and could have but didn't because he knew she would be his window into the world but once he got out he wouldn't need her to be his window to the world so he was going to kill her blah blah blah...Sound familiar yet?

What I found particularly funny about that whole "connection" thing was that, if he could see and hear everything she could see and hear, why did he need to track her down with a phone book and a very obvious clue given by Jana herself? I guess that's just one of those funny little movie things that no one quite understands, but no one cares about enough anyway. The supposed connection between the two had no relevancy to the rest of the movie.

So Jana runs into Mark (Robert Floyd), who she went to school with and who lived next door to her when the murders occured. They catch up on old times, and he wants to protect her from the bad guy so he takes her back home with him. How nice. Unfortunately, moments that were obviously meant to run smoothly between the two characters were nothing better than awkward. When the actors were supposed to be calm, cool, and nonchalant, they were clumsy and stumbling through their lines. They shared a few funny moments together, but it was only funny to the characters, not to the audience.

This movie also sent out some mixed signals. For example, it was very vague with the occurrences of "that night". At one point, Jana mentions something about the murder being prompted by a robbery, but it is never explained or brought up again. There were also some very predictable yet completely unnecessary twists that threw off the course of the movie and took it in a whole new direction. It seemed like the more dark the movie tried to be, the less dark it actually was. In truth, this movie wasn't nearly as scary or dark as was probably intended, as is the case with many horror movies. Paranoia took the idea of existentialism and took it to a whole new level of laughable generalizations in attempt to make a "dark" movie.

Too bad the idea of existentialism, like everything else in this movie, didn't have anything to do with the movie as a whole.

Another problem with this movie was that the lead character Jana goes through some very thorough, very SUDDEN changes of personality, only to go plummeting back to her original self as before. She went from weak-trying-to-be-strong to don't-fuck-with-this strong and back to weak-feigning-strength in the course of 30 minutes. And don't even question how that happened. I thought maybe the movie would take the hint of a split-personality and run with it, maybe make Jana the murderer only she didn't even know she did it, and Calvin was just an illusion conjured up by her sick mind or something cool like that; but alas, that was not what happened.

For a movie that was made on what was probably a very tight budget, it was actually pretty good. The acting was decent, if not downright good. The story was at least entertaining, if not marginally creative. The dialogue was somewhat choppy, but no more than many movies that rake in millions at the box office.
Overall, it wasn't too bad. What ruined this movie was the way it was carried across onto the screen. The cliches, the bloopers, the unnecessary twists and the unnecessary attempts at theme; they all just turned the movie into yet another B-flick.

Paranoia, Hideaway, Children of the Corn, anything by Wes Craven or Clive Barker; it's all the same--entertainment for people with nothing better to do.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2159&reviewer=86
originally posted: 07/27/99 01:04:07
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2/11/03 Bill Jackameit Liked it -- 4 stars
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  06-Oct-1998 (R)
  DVD: 29-Feb-2000



Directed by
  Larry Brand

Written by
  Larry Brand

  Larry Drake
  Brigitte Bako
  Stephen Gevedon
  Sally Kirkland
  Scott Valentine

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