Directed by: Ash Smith
Starring: Shanda Lee Munson, Summer Sloan LePann, Brandon O’Dell
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Morning A Slash abovers…. Like Jason Voorhees… I’M BACK!!
I owe all of you, each and every one, a sincere apology. I had a huge number – 177,000 regular readers and other visitors – at my peak and I conversed with a lot of you peeps. My blog was so popular, some motherfucker stole my web address www. aslahabove .com, puta! If I find him, I’ll chain him to a chair and make him watch Curse Of Halloween for 24 hours on repeat with tooth picks holding his eye lids open. Anyway, basically, what happened was, I work in IT sales and I’m a pretty successful-ish guy in my industry. Anyway, August 2016, I was promoted to sales manager and I also got into a new romantic relationship around the time (I have two divorces and four kids from four different women) and my new Mrs wasn’t a horror movie fan. So, whilst in the old days I would watch a movie in the evening and write a review on the train to work or at lunch, it became an incredibly busy period for me and there was no ‘slasher time’. During the evening, I was watching normal cinema, such as mafia movies, romantic comedies and dramas et al with my Bulgarian new girl. (I learned Bulgarian too and one of my kids is hers. That means I now speak 7 languages).
Then, to make matters worse, in November 2018, I was a passenger in a tragic car crash that saw two of my friends instantly killed and one died the next day. Due to the shock, I went into a diabetic coma (I’m type 1 with insulin) and the doctors told my mum and brother (in England) that IF I recover (and that was a BIG if), I’d be a total vegetable. I wouldn’t be able to move, think or speak. There was an idea to turn off the life support, but my mum knew I’d fight. I recovered with a brain injury and I had to learn to walk/speak again. If you check the photo to the right, that’s me with Oliverio from my family, when I was recovering in 2020, looking pale and rough. I’m slightly different after the crash; but I’m coping well and getting back to my best. By degree I’m an evolutionary biologist and much like Richard Dawkins, I’m completely agonistic and don’t believe in things with zero proof. That means religion, luck, ghosts, aliens, karma etc. I realised however, that life can be incredibly short and I want to leave this world with an impact on our favourite slasher sub-genre. A Slash above of course, is the perfect way for me to achieve that.
After 36 months I was released and I came home to Spain. I have some amnesia, but I am ready to rock and roll once more! I’m back working again and feeling and looking good. The Bulgarian is in her country with my son and I’m with a Romanian beauty and she likes horror movies, so these lifestyle changes mean I’m back for A SLASH ABOVE PART II: The return of Luisjo 😂 . I’m also thinking of a YouTube channel so you can see my handsome chiselled features, but that’s in the future. We’ll see how the website goes first. I doubt I’ll be able to go back to posting reviews once a week, but we’ll see how things go, before we think too far into the future. Are there still slasher fans breathing or will I post reviews to nobody????? Let’s see…
I was actually a bit excited about re-visiting Paranoid. Whilst it’s not a film that I can really remember (last watch was 21 years ago), I’ve always held a subtle fondness for it, because it reminds me of a unique time. I was a slasher fan before the release of Scream and even though I was only a teenager, I knew that during the early nineties, this genre had become obscure and unpopular.
This was the general theme, up until 1996 when Craven’s blockbuster (the aforementioned Scream) became the mystical ritual that awoke slasher flicks from their slumber like the living dead from Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground. Video stores were once again full of hand-drawn covers with cheesy titles and almost every week I’d come across a different slasher to take home with me. It makes me sad that the MPEG generation will never experience the joys of hunting through shelves for cinematic trash, the way we did back then. I spoke to an a SLASH abover recently that had downloaded his entire collection of 400 slasher films from portals in a few days. I’m conscious of sounding like an elderly bore, but for me, finding them so easily, removes the most enjoyable part of being a genre enthusiast.
Titles like Final Scream, Camp Blood, Cherry Falls and Christina’s House were amongst the last of the slashers that could be discovered by rummaging through rental stores, so I’ll always have a soft spot for them, no matter their credibility. Whilst I didn’t recall much about Paranoid, I am quite sure that I wasn’t over impressed with it all those years ago.
A vicious serial killer has been stalking cities of America and ruthlessly butchering students. The media have dubbed the maniac, ‘The Conscience Killer’, due to the haunting letters he leaves at the scene of each crime. Whilst a group of teenagers are preparing to graduate college, it seems that the fearsome psychopath has chosen their remote town…
Most of the entries from the early noughties are so similar to Scream that they lose some allure due to their lack of innovation. In that respect, Paranoid is no different, but where it does distinguish itself is that it’s a true amalgamation of qualities. If you were to take something hideous like rotten milk and mix it with something mind blowing like Tovaritch Russian Vodka, then and only then would you achieve a combination that might be considered similar to how hard Paranoid is to give an accurate review. It’s a jumble of elements that combine to leave a runtime that plays like a date with a beautiful bipolar schizophrenic.
It’s clear to see that first and last time director Ash Smith was keen to fill his debut movie with ‘va-va-voom’ and alongside cinematographer Keith Holland, they unleash some energetic and audacious shooting styles. Whilst there are viewers that find more credibility in subtle lens placement, I’m a sucker for visual exuberance and I appreciated the vibrancy. The killer looks suspiciously identical to the antagonist from Cherry Falls, but it looks to be coincidental as they were both released the same year. If I am going to chose one director here to accuse of imitation, it certainly not Falls’ Geoffrey Wright. We get a couple of ominous sequences of the psycho watching news reports of his murders in a candle-lit room, and they reminded me of the deeply ominous tone from Goodnight Godbless because there was an extremely similar scene in that film too. Robert Albertson’s scoring for these parts is unique and threatening and even though I’m not sure how much of it was strategically planned, the use of audio (and the lack of during the kill scenes) is surprisingly adept. In fact there’s a lot of stuff here that really adds a layer of creepiness to proceedings and Smith displayed a flair for the macabre in various places. He even manages to pull off suspense with two terrific set-pieces that excel with some superb antagonist placement and blocking.
Shanda Lee Munson deserves kudos for the range she showed as our final girl, even if she fades on some of the meatier ‘acting’ parts. Also, I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but wardrobe suitably dressed her down when she was depressed and dolled her up when her attitude was more positive, which certainly (at least subconsciously) improved our interpretation of the plot. Sadly the rest of the cast were far less impressive and assisted in demonstrating the aforementioned lack of cinematic balance. The script has some neat ideas to generate momentum (the whole ‘conscious killer’ back story was intriguing), but it loses impact with it’s ropey continuity. There are quite a few examples of lackadaisical screenwriting, but the ones that stood out, were the police brushing off a credible report of the maniac’s whereabouts (he had just openly chased our key players with a chainsaw!). Then we get a late plot development about the protagonist’s sibling that makes little sense with what went before it. It’s like they expected viewers not to remember anything we’d seen previously for longer than five minutes. Look, slasher movies don’t need to be intellectual philosophy, but they should, at least, remain logical.
I mentioned the creative photography above because it really made an impression, but the same couldn’t be said about the editing, which was the worst thing about the picture. I was reminded of the saying, “Don’t run before you can walk”, because there was a lot of flashy chop cuts that came at the expense of a linear flow that would’ve best benefited the story. It’s a shame because I really thought Paranoid deserved better, but it became stagnated and cluttered in the editing suite. The overall limpness also had an effect on the conclusion to the mystery, which could have hit us like ‘wow – really!!!’, but instead it just feels like, ‘ohhhhhh…really…. ho hum…’
Paranoid reminded me of my first car, which was an Mk1 Ford Fiesta 1100. I put an XR2 engine in it, slapped on a body kit, performance suspension, a roll-cage, tinted windows and a cherry bomb exhaust. I only had it on the road six-weeks and then the gearbox and clutch totally failed. I took it to the garage, he took a good look and noticed that rust was eating away the wheel-arches and the floor under the driver’s seat. As a slasher movie, Paranoid is exactly the same as that Fiesta. Looks good, but it’s rusty and rotten…