Cinemax Friday: The Paper Boy (1994, directed by Douglas Jackson)


12 year-old Johnny McFarley (Marc Marut) is a paperboy who desperately wants to be a part of a stable family.  He wants Melissa Thorpe (Alexandra Paul) to be his mother but Melisssa has moved to a different town.  Johnny solves that problem by suffocating Melissa’s mother with a plastic bag, which causes Melissa to return home.  That’s one way to do it!

As soon as Melissa and her daughter, Cammie (Brigid Tierney), move into Melissa’s mother’s old house, Johnny starts making himself indispensable by doing things like mowing the lawn for free.  He also does things like break into the house in the middle of the night, plant hidden cameras, and demand that Melissa bake him a pie.  He wants Melissa to be his mother and because Melissa feels sorry for him, she indulges Johnny and his mood swings.  Even after everyone else in the neighborhood tells her that Johnny is a little bit off, Melissa continues to allow him into the house.  Not even the crazy religious lady saying that Johnny has “the mark of Cain” can dissuade Melissa.

Johnny will do anything to make Melissa his new mother.  But then Brian (William Katt), Melissa’s boyfriend, shows up and Johnny really goes off the deep end.

The Paperboy is an adequate killer child film.  Marc Marut gives a good performance as the creepy and disturbed Johnny and the movie does make an attempt to provide him with a believable backstory to explain why he’s become the little killer that he is.  The kills are all imaginatively staged and all the more disturbing because they feature a child as the killer and that really is the whole point of the whole psycho kid genre.  The main problem with the movie is that Melissa keeps overlooking Johnny’s clearly unstable behavior.  At the point when just about anyone else would have told Johnny to stay away and perhaps even called the cops on the little bugger, Melissa keeps letting him back into her life.  By the time that Melissa finally realizes that maybe Johnny actually is as dangerous as everyone has been telling her, you’re too frustrated with her to care.

One good thing about The Paperboy is that it features William Katt in a supporting role.  If there’s ever a Late Night Cinemax Hall of Fame, William Katt will be entitled to an entire wing.  Even though he spent the majority of the 90s appearing in low-budgets movies like this one, Katt always gave a good performance, like he does here.

 

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