I never cease to be amazed at the inventiveness of B movie makers who find ingenious ways of tweaking a recently successful box-office formula.
Take the case of Joseph Ruben's The Stepfather (1987). This thriller was based on a novel pathology: a man who worships the ideal of the American family so intensely he kills to be become part of one which is not his own. Once installed as patriarch he implements a frightful regime of repression in a hysterical attempt to keep home and hearth together.
The Paper Boy shifts this pathology onto Johnny (Marc Marut), a clean-cut boy-next-door who each morning bicycles through sunny suburbia delivering newspapers. With his mother dead and his father largely absent, Johnny fixates on single mother Melissa (Alexandra Paul) and her daughter Cammie (Brigid Tierney).
Just as the stepfather went nuts in the basement whenever his family started misbehaving, the paperboy takes to yelling "I don't wanna be a bad boy!" every time he feels the urge to kill.
I always pay attention to the work of Canadian producer Pierre David (Scanners, 1981), for even his most blatant rip-offs have some diverting, original touches. With director Douglas Jackson (Deadbolt, 1992) he has worked sensational elements of child abuse and suburban neurosis into this story.
Best of all, the film makes particularly chilling use of Johnny's nerdy but unerringly clever way with such techno-toys as walkie-talkies, computers and home video cameras.
MORE Jackson: Random Encounter
© Adrian Martin October 1994