I saw the preview for THE PAPERBOY while watching an old John Woo movie I rented (yes, I do sometimes watch non-horror movies). Upon seeing the preview, I thought to myself, “This is going to be classic, you have to rent it.” So, next time I got a chance I rented THE PAPERBOY with the hopes that it would be a silly little movie about a psycho paperboy who delivered death with his papers. With those expectations, I was disappointed. THE PAPERBOY, however, isn't a terrible movie. It's not necessarily that enjoyable, either, but the concept of the movie is actually quite disturbing and got under my skin more than I suspected it would.
The plot begins promisingly as the paperboy climbs into the house of an old lady in his neighborhood and kills her with a plastic bag as she watches a videotape of her daughter and her granddaughter. The cheesy, PSYCHO-esque music blasted as he attacked her from behind so that you couldn't see his face, I was psyched. This looked to be a good killer movie where you don't see the killer until the end. Wrong I was. Next shot was of this kid (Marc Marut) riding his bike through a lovely neighborhood, smiling as happy music chimes on the soundtrack. What? I didn't get it.
As things continue, the daughter of the recently-deceased old lady (Alexandra Paul) decides to move in to her mom’s old house, bringing her daughter along with her. The paperboy almost immediately falls in love with Ms. Paul (who, in only a few years would star in the infamous HOUSE OF THE DAMNED) and starts to form friendships with her and her daughter. Before long, the paperboy decides that he is a part of their family. What about his own family, you ask? Well, he's got a dad who basically ignored him, and his mom died many years earlier.
Now here comes both the problem and good points of THE PAPERBOY. In any other movie, the dad who ignored him would be a genuine asshole who deserved to be killed. But in this movie, he is just a frightened man who makes genuine attempts to rectify himself by spending time with his son. When the paperboy kills him, then, you don't get that same thrill you do in normal horror movies. Instead you get a bit of a sick feeling in your stomach. This is also the case when the paperboy knocks over a ladder the neighborhood babysitter climbs leaving her not dead, but paralyzed for life. At this point, you have to start thinking that the filmmakers of THE PAPERBOY are pretty twisted.
There's more. The paperboy unhappily sees a relationship forming between the woman who wants to be his mother and another man, played by William Katt (yes, THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO himself). The paperboy views Katt’s presence as damaging to his “family.” With his increasingly odd behavior, his “family” banishes him from their lives, which of course just makes things worse.
The whole concept of THE PAPERBOY is an odd one. It's really about a truly screwed up kid and the evil things he does. On the one hand, this is not that entertaining to view. On the plus side, however, it's far more interesting than a normal horror movie. THE PAPERBOY does not portray characters and situations in the typical black-and-white of horror films, and in this respect it surprised me. The bottom line is: should you rent THE PAPERBOY? Well, if you're not easily disturbed by odd psychological situations, then go for it, otherwise pass over it and head for THE STEPFATHER, which deals with these suburban situations with more confidences.
Rating: ** and a half (out of a possible four).