Director: Larry Brand

USA - 1998

   Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!    


There is nothing I like more than a good Larry Drake movie.

Let's see, there’s Darkman, which is not only a good movie, but a good movie starring a pre-Nell Liam Neeson! And then there's Dr. Giggles...which, um...wasn't that great. Drake was also featured in the coming-of-age film Angus; unfortunately, he was so good that they cut his scenes. Then, in an attempt to milk the cash cow it for all it's worth, Drake made his triumphant return in Darkman II: The Return of Durant - which, in one word, blew.

"Say, I wonder if Michael J. could hook me up on Spin City?"Okay, so maybe there's not many good Larry Drake movies. But he was pretty good in L.A. Law and Darkman. And Dr. Giggles could have been worse, I guess.

Supporting Drake we have a stellar cast: Brigitte Bako, best known for being nude, and Scott Valentine, best known as "Nick” from Family Ties. Valentine is also widely-known as "That Jackass" responsible for the torturous My Demon Lover.

Drake plays Calvin Hawks, a convicted serial killer who has been incarcerated in a Maximum Security prison for the last twenty years – but apparently, has an account on AOL. I mean, taking a man's freedom away is justice, but not letting him check his e-mail could be considered cruel and unusual. Bako plays Jana Mercer, an interior designer who, as a child, witnessed her family slaughtered by Drake while she hid under the stairs. Ever since this incident, Jana has been afraid of daylight. (No, I don't get it either.) Valentine plays Nick, Mallory's boyfriend.

It's been twenty years since said incident. Jana, now all grown-up, lives in New York in a Tim Burton‑esque apartment where she holes up all day with the blinds drawn. When not trying her darndest to look like Alanis Morrisette, Jana makes a living though interior design online, she also visits with her shrink via the Internet.

"You've got mail, and an inferiority complex."

Jana, as the title (and the Black Sabbath album) implies, is paranoid; constantly reliving her infamous rendezvous with the psychotic Hawks in both her memories and dreams. Jana keeps her home locked up tighter than the Pentagon"Fire good. Larry like fire." (trust me, I know), and on the rare occasion that she does venture outside, is constantly checking over her shoulder, armed with pepper spray, anticipating the inevitable day she and Calvin will meet again.

One day, while surfing the ‘net, Hawks happens across Jana's webpage advertising her interior design service. Immediately he faxes her (am I supposed to believe this?) with instructions to put her modem on “receive." Tell me, how does one put their modem on “receive?” Anyway, somehow, Jana puts her modem on receive, and immediately begins receiving instant messages from the killer. Conveniently, Jana also has a voice simulator so we don't have to deal with the nuisance of reading. I would just hate that. So, Calvin then taunts her with the standard movie serial killer jargon, "Blah,'ll never escape...blah, blah...I'm watching you...blah, blah, blah." I found the whole computer/Internet aspect of this film totally  implausible. How can you simply turn on your computer and immediately be chatting with a serial killer on the other line? Wouldn't you have to go to Nutbags.Com, type in their ICQ address, or something? And more importantly, the movie implies that Hawks is quite proficient on the Internet, but not once in his messages did I see him use ‘net expert techniques such as BRB (Be Right Back) or :) (The Infamous sideways Happy Face) or :P (The Notorious Sideways Happy Face with Tongue Sticking Out). These, my friends, are the true indicators of who is and is not Internet savvy.

After being taunted for a while, Jana decides to call the police and complain. Ironically, the police inform our heroine that Hawks has been complaining about her harassing him. Naturally, they take his word over hers. They then inform Jana that he is going to be paroled tomorrow ("He's been a model prisoner") and that perhaps they can settle their differences over a cup of coffee at IHOP.

Now, being both stressed and paranoid, Jana decides to go on vacation and stay with her recently-acquired boyfriend at his remote cabin back in the town where she grew up. It’s a chance to get away, a chance to face her Well, isn't it ironic?childhood fears - not to mention a great opportunity for a little hanky-panky. And perhaps not-so-coincidentally, this is also the place where Calvin Hawks has been paroled.

By this point in the film I was pretty restless; but now, thinking I had realized the inevitable (and thoroughly predictable) outcome, I was merely counting the minutes before this tripe was over, periodically yelling, "Come on! Get on with it!" And how does Hawks track Jana down, you ask? Well, not only does this "paranoid" woman have a webpage, but her phone number in New York is also conveniently listed. Of course, when Calvin calls he discovers that Jana is on vacation, but fortunately, she is nice enough to leave a forwarding number! How thoughtful. But on a positive note, just as I figured that Paranoia was a prime candidate for my pal Ric Flair, there was a slight twist towards the end which slightly redeemed this film. But on a negative note, there was yet another plot twist at the very end which caused me to lose faith all over again. I’m not going to get into it, for I don't want to ruin the “surprises” for you (just in case you're a glutton for punishment - or perhaps a huge fan of Scott Valentine - and have decided that you simply must to see this). Nope, I'm not going to wreck it - that's director Larry Brand's job.

The movie was slow, the acting bland, and worst of all, the dialogue was ridiculously inane. All the conversations consisted either of psychological garbage, or fond remembrances of "the good old days" – anecdotes thaDrake: He kills pumpkins DEAD!t added nothing resembling substance (or interest) to the film. It's a toss-up between two scenes in particular for the coveted title of "Scene Most Likely to Drive Me Through the Roof." One is where Jana and her boyfriend are in his car, recalling something pointless from their past, of course, but the whole scene is shot from the outside of the automobile, with the windshield wipers constantly rocking back and forth, back and forth. So not only does the tedious conversation bring me to tears, but there’s also the loud, constant rubbing of the windshield wipers running across the glass! I don't even recall it raining!

Pulling a close second was the scene where Jana goes to visit her Aunt, currently residing at a local retirement home. As it turns out, the Aunt is quite senile. Fortunately, that doesn't prohibit us from having to endure a ten minute conversation between the two in which I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. None. After their lengthy exchange, I immediately turned to my (then) girlfriend and asked, "Just what the heck were they talking about?!" Alas, she didn't reply to my query, for by this point she was pretty ticked at me for renting this. One key phrase that shined through the drivel of Jana and her Aunt's conversation was the expression "Sucks the wind." It was used a few times by the Aunt during her constant rambling, and though I don't know what exactly she meant by it, or the context from which it was used, I do believe it plays a key factor in Paranoia.

Sucks the wind. Yup, that about sums it up.

By the way, if you are a big fan of Scott Valentine, you should know that he is only featured for approximately five minutes. Jana meets him at his apartment for an interior design consultation, Scott hits on her, and she leaves. That's it. So, if you're thinking this is your chance to see Scott shine as he did in My Demon Lover, you would be mistaken. Weirdo.



We love your money!




-- Copyright © 2001 by J. Bannerman


Home  Reviews  Ramblings  Mail  Updates  Links