It’s been a while since I’ve watched some crap, so I thought as it’s Christmas Eve I’d treat myself to a stinker that sunk like a stone back in 2015, despite a cast including Rose “Scream” McGowan and Ray “Twin Peaks” Wise. McGowan plays a radio psychiatrist who returns to her late father’s home and is menaced by a demonic local paperboy. The residents of Rosewood Lane fear and try to have nothing to do with him, though there's a chance that he might have been involved in the death of McGowan’s father.
I don’t even know where to start with what’s wrong here. The plot has a Stephen King quality. Only King would have set it within an authentic American community and added gruesome events to raise the stakes. The community of Rosewood Lane is bland and featureless. At one point, McGowan visits an elderly male neighbour, and his house looks the same as hers, without much in the way of pictures or decor.
Nothing happens for much of the runtime, and the paperboy character is, I have to say, hilarious. After a reasonably effective introduction where he shows off one pitch-black, pupil-less eye, he’s shown again in McGowan’s basement, and there are shots of him running away and being chased by dogs that made me burst out laughing. The way he moves and acts just isn't intimidating, the only slight frisson coming from little jolts on the soundtrack, without which any scene with him would likely come across as pure comedy.
Worse, his horror-monster schtick is that he recites nursery rhymes in a “scary” cadence, but his boyish American voice sounds like a kid trying to sing lead vocals for an emo band. I guess that the director was aiming for a Freddy Krueger motif, but didn’t understand that in A Nightmare on Elm Street it wasn’t Freddy himself singing “one, two, Freddy’s coming for you”, it was little girls playing jump-rope. This suggested that the myth of Freddy was in the back of people’s minds and had permeated the community’s collective unconsciousness, their dreams. If he were singing it himself, he would have seemed like just a pizza-faced poser.
Although realism isn’t a requisite of the monster movie genre, it helps if the characters react to the monster plausibly. The characters are poorly drawn to a degree where they don’t even work as basic archetypes. McGowan plays her character haughty and stuck-up when, as a health professional who works with troubled teens, she should be at least somewhat approachable. To be fair, though, the script gives her lines like ”it’s Doctor, not Miss”, so she might have been encouraged to interpret her character that way.
And poor Ray Wise. He's one of the best actors working; he shouldn't be playing ”idiot cop who doesn't recognise a threat until it's physically attacking him.” I get that cops in movies like this are supposed to be a touch antagonistic or just unhelpful, but the ones here are memorably incompetent.
At one point A DISTRICT ATTORNEY (and McGowan’s love interest) GOES MISSING, and they’re still scratching their heads, trying to decide if McGowan’s making it all up. Even though at this point a whole yard full of people have witnessed the paperboy fling urine in the DA’s face, the DA’s been knocked down cellar stairs and hospitalised, and he can corroborate McGowan’s claim that they were alone when they both heard a third person in the house. And the paperboy’s been calling her radio show with creepy messages that her producers and God knows how many people in the audience (she’s popular) would have heard.
I'm sorry, I know I'm harping on this, but these might be the dumbest movie cops I’ve EVER seen, and I’ve watched slasher flicks where their entire purpose is to not know what’s happening. There’s even a bit where Ray Wise screams in Rose McGowan’s face that she’s going to get him ”busted down to meter-maid” because she made a 911 call to her home! A DISTRICT ATTORNEY IS MISSING AFTER A SERIOUS ASSAULT AND EVEN WITHOUT THAT YOU’RE LEGALLY OBLIGED TO RESPOND TO 911 CALLS. YOU PRICK. Forget slashers; I’ve seen PARODIES of films where the cops aren't this stupid.
Going back to attempts at using other movie’s tricks, we get a nod to the scene in A Clockwork Orange where Alex de Large punctuates a rendition of Singin’ in the Rain by kicking a helpless victim. Here the paperboy recites Hickory Dickory Dock while beating a man, with a vaudeville cane. I half-wanted him to change the lines to that obscene Andrew Dice Clay version’s (”hickory dickory dock, some bitch was sucking my c***”). At least then the moment would have been funny on purpose.
Story-wise we never get an explanation of who/what the paperboy is, nor any motive for what he’s doing. No doubt because the filmmakers were hoping to get sequels (lol). Honestly, though, that feels like one of the film’s lesser problems to me. It reminds me of a ’90s horror novel by Bentley Little called The Mailman, about a demonic postmaster who drives good people to violence by tampering with their mail. (i.e. He makes a guy believe that his beloved late brother, a Vietnam vet, was in truth a sadistic war criminal.)
That story was also unsuccessful because it didn't properly escalate the threat towards a satisfying conclusion. Still, it stands head and shoulders above Rosewood Lane because it had a genuinely creepy antagonist with an intriguing psychological approach. I'm giving the movie 1/4 because the shots were at least in focus and there’s a baseline of coherence where nothing makes much sense, but you still know what people are doing and why. The bit mentioned above with the kid showing off one black eye (and then rolling it up into his head) was entertaining, and I liked the paperboy's description as ”a trick of the light”. That's it, though, and even that's too generous.