The most notable thing about The Paperboy was that it was written by David E Peckinpah, nephew of famous director Sam Peckinpah. Beyond that, it’s the kind of straight to video thriller audiences should be familiar with by now. The “twist” here is that the killer is not a deranged tenant or a nymphomaniac from next door, it’s a paperboy. But then you already knew that from the title.
Young Marc Marut plays Johnny, our evil villain. The movie starts as we watch an old woman killed in her rocking chair while watching a video of her daughter and granddaughter. Johnny suffocates her by placing a dry cleaning bag over her face, resulting in a shot that looks exactly like a similar scene from Bob Clark’s Black Christmas! Although in that film, the victim is placed in the rocking chair after she dies, this is either an homage or an outright rip-off. Since there aren’t too many positive things in this film, I’ll optimistically stick with homage.
So, Johnny has killed the old lady to bring her divorcee daughter Melissa Thorpe back to town, and she soon returns with her young daughter Cammy. Melissa is barely through her departed mother’s front door when Johnny is already weaving his special brand of magic, being overly helpful with his annoyingly fresh-faced attitude. Despite appearances, it is obvious that Johnny has some issues. And we don’t find this out through subtle Anthony Perkins-like stuttering or refusal to say the word ‘bathroom’ we’re talking pounding the walls with his fists, screaming “I’m stupid!” Johnny has no real family of his own, just a forever absent dad, and is apparently trying to construct a new family with Melissa and Cammy. He breaks into their house, steals their photo album, hides a baby monitor in a vent to hear them talking– all your typical thriller plot points.
Of course Melissa has no idea what is going on, and welcomes the lonely boy. But conflict follows quickly, as Melissa’s old flame, played by William Katt, shows up. Pretty soon Melissa has less time for Johnny, and more time for romance. Johnny doesn’t like this, and starts throwing fits, screaming at Melissa and Cammy and scaring them. Then he comes back and apologizes and everything is back to normal. A variation on this happens about four more times, until you begin to question Melissa for being so forgiving. Finally she forbids Johnny from coming over again, and even has her boyfriend give one of those “Hey slugger, listen here…” lectures. Of course this is useless since we all know what Johnny is capable of, and he quickly gets busy. I don’t want to give it away, but there is a heartwarming scene involving a certain character on fire.
This movie fails to rise above the straight-to-video mediocrity. If I was Melissa, I’d be more terrified by Johnny’s Wally Cleaver-ness than the fact that he might want to kill me. Strangely, this seems to be the angle that the film makers take as well, constantly plastering the screen with Johnny’s oily face and whiny voice.
Filmed in Montreal and Toronto, The Paperboy is covertly Canadian, and makes no references to Canada at all. It’s supposed to take place in Maine, but it’s obviously mostly done in Quebec. If anything will make you watch this one, it’s the tribute scene to Black Christmas.