Director: Larry Brand
USA - 1998
There is nothing I like more than a good Larry Drake
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.
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
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
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
(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,
blah...you'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 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
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 that
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.
-- Copyright © 2001 by J. Bannerman