Monday, March 4, 2019

Short Attention Span Review: Paranoiac (1963)

Short Attention Span Review: Paranoiac (1963)

Typically, when we fright fans think about Hammer, we recall Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee duking it out in their classic takes on such notable horror staples as Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy.  It is easy to forget that the studio also produced a number of remarkable features that run the gamut from eerie thrillers to subdued chillers.  Paranoiac is a 1963 picture directed by Freddie Francis, starring a young Oliver Reed at his unstable best.  Reed smirks, schemes, sweats, and twitches his way through this stunning black and white composition that stands somewhere between Psycho and a devilish whodunit.  The cinematography is crisp and compelling, the score is dark and somewhat insidious, and all of the characters aside from Janette Scott as Eleanor Ashby are harboring dark secrets that slowly come to light.  As the movie nears its dramatic conclusion, the shocks come fast and furious, and there are a few terrifying moments embedded in what is mostly a stark and calculating mystery.  Paranoiac is a fun film to revisit, and it remains suspenseful and ominous even in this modern era of dazzling effects and heightened immersion.  It is a throwback, yes, but it is a throwback to a time when there were no big scares courtesy of CGI delights, a time when filmmakers worked hard to terrify audiences with sinister plots and impeccable craftsmanship.  Such ventures often age well, and that is surely the case with this 1963 spookshow.

Final Grade: B+

Paranoiac is creepier than one might suspect--this mask design is pretty chilling for a 1963 thriller.

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