Paranoid: A Slow Boil (Review)

Screenshot from Paranoid

Paranoid is a crime series set in Cheshire that uses a “softly softly” approach in its pacing. This is a slow boil but the pacing allows the show to present some interesting characters with a lot of depth.   It comes from the same chap who brought us the  2009 The Prisoner re-imagining; Bill Gallagher.

The eight part series, which aired on Netflix in September, has a lot of familiar faces. From Shobna Gulati from Coronation Street and Dinner Ladies as the physician treating Detective Bobby Day (Robert Glenister) to Indira Varma as Nina and the splendid Lesley Sharp as Lucy Cannonbury.

A woman is stabbed to death in broad daylight in the play area of a park. Quick thinking Lucy grabs the victim’s child and saves him.   As the detectives question witnesses and Lucy, a “ghost” detective begins his own investigation.

Lucy and a number of other witnesses are approached by Detective “Galen.”  The dead woman’s father; Eric Benton (played by John Duttine) reveals that her ex husband is an American who lives in Germany.

The cast of characters are an interesting lot. Nina has just been dumped by her boyfriend of four and a half years. Alec, her partner at work (played by Dino Fetscher) gives her a shoulder to lean on and Bobby, the senior detective of the group seems to be suffering from severe anxiety. 

Nina is an abrasive and over the top detective that would drive anyone mad who had to spend any amount of time with her. Presumably in her long relationship she was a bit calmer.

Bobby feels like he is one step from a breakdown and he is drawn to their main witness, Lucy.  The detectives contact a German colleague; Det. Linda Felber (Christiane Paul) and ask her to  hunt down the victim’s ex.

The detectives ask Linda to inform the victim’s ex about her death and to find out anything else about the man. Ferber goes to hunt the man down and she finds his dead body floating in an indoor pool.

Bobby is sent a DVD from the “ghost detective.” The footage on the recording is of him.

This Studio Canal production seems to be taking a leaf from the Brit crime thriller River; offering up cops with a full set of issues.  Like the BBC drama, the police are as interesting as the crime they are investigating.

Lesley Sharp, who won two Best Actress Awards for the 2005 drama Afterlife (which also starred a pre The Walking Dead’s  Andrew Lincoln) manages to command every single scene she is in. .

Game of Thrones actress Varma gives a complex performance portraying a woman who is annoying as hell one moment and then softly vulnerable the next. Her character is also, it seems, a pretty good cop.

The added device of the ghost detective makes for a complex storyline but it is the impending meltdown of Bobby that grabs the viewers attention.  Like River, Paranoid moves at a languid pace but this allows for a depth of character its story to be solidly revealed.

This may not be a quaint and twee British drawing room mystery but it offers up a puzzle that will, or will not, be solved by detectives who feel real. These cops are damaged people who have a job to do and their issues make it all the more interesting.

It looks like the detectives in Paranoid will be following clues across Europe.

Paranoid is streaming on Netflix. Head over and check this British mystery out.

The ABCs of Death 2 Good Gruesome Anthology Fun Again

Poster for The ABCs of Death 2
Another gem on Netflix at the moment is The ABCs of Death 2, which is good gruesome fun even if it is overly long. Of course covering the entire alphabet will be time consuming and well worth the time spent watching this blackly comic horror anthology sequel to the first ABCs which came out in 2012.

In this collection of death via the letter, versus by the number, the stories move from the outrightly comic, B is for Badger had me almost hysterical with laughter as did the M is for Masticate, to the outrageous and bang on point, T is for Torture Porn for example. The Soska Twins, Jen and Sylvia, lay it on the line with their segment. So much so that their part of the anthology was banned in Germany. These two incredibly talented filmmakers were the ladies responsible for American Mary, See No Evil 2 and many more brilliant horror films.

Scene from The ABCs of Death 2
M is for Masticate…

The short films in each alphabetized death even included one that was so political that it hurt. The C is for Capital Punishment was ironic as well as blackly comic. One of the more disturbing attempts at trying to stop “killing killers” which while entertaining was also just a tad irritating.

Harking back to Jen and Sylvia, their “statement” about how women are treated in the industry and by some men in general was both amusing and worth cheering for. It makes one wonder just what made Germany censors so uncomfortable about the scene? The only thing missing from this exquisite little message is the delightful Katherine Isabelle who worked in both American Mary, as the lead, and See No Evil 2.

It is a shame that there are not more anthology horror films available in the US. There was a surge of these type movies from Hammer and this collection certainly has its fair share of English actors in a number to the short tales on offer. The Japanese collection of Tales of Terror are another excellent example of terror filled tales that range from the brilliant to eclectic and amuse as much as scare.

Still from The ABCs of Death 2
T is for Torture Porn

Horror lends itself incredibly well to the anthology format. The 2007 film Trick ‘r’ Treat was a splendid little multi-tale film with Halloween as its theme and The ABCs of Death may be that bit more graphic and, in some cases, disturbing to watch, K is for Knell is a good example of being just plain creepy to the extreme but still very entertaining. The only other recent anthology series is the VHS franchise which, despite its brilliant start, has lost steam.

There is a third in the series yet to come and one can only hope that Jen and Sylvia get another chance to do their bit. For fans of Horror anthologies this is great news and hopefully there will be more blackly comic and excruciating to watch short films on offer. This is a real 4 out of 5 stars for entertainment with the loss of a star for a couple of clunkers in the mix.

24 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Joe Cocker English Blues Singer Dead at 70

Joe Cocker English Blues Singer Dead at 70

Joe Cocker, the English blues singer who rasped out his version of the Beatles song With a Little Help From My Friends and made the Lennon McCartney tune a hit for a whole new generation of fans, is dead at the age of 70. While Cocker reached the number one slot with his take on the classic in 1968, it was when ABC’s The Wonder Years used the Sheffield born performer’s rendition of the song as the theme tune for their show in 1988 that this Woodstock singer was brought to the attention of younger fans.

Constantine: NBC Dooms Its English Exorcist #SaveConstantine

Constantine: NBC Dooms Its English Exorcist #SaveConstantine

Whilst getting ready to review the latest episode in the comic book NBC series Constantine, it was discovered that the network has taken the first steps to cancelling this out of the box program featuring its version of an English exorcist by cutting the first season’s episodes down to 13 hence the social media campaign of hashtag #SaveConstantine. This development, which was first brought to light in November, feels an awful lot like the Longmire debacle over on A&E, although not quite the same as the cowboy detective had a huge fanbase who were all the wrong age according to that network. Constantine, has been steadily growing in popularity, says zap2it’s TV by the Numbers in an article released on December 13.

Constantine: Blessed Are the Damned (Recap and Review)

Constantine: Blessed Are the Damned (Recap and Review)

It is hard not to love a series where the main character uses phrases like “gobsmacked” which the main protagonist John Constantine does in Blessed Are the Damned. In Constantine, the Liverpool lad brings his country’s language with him to the rural U.S. and to the not so rural areas of the country. In this week’s episode a lay preacher for a small church is bitten by a rattlesnake and he lays dying on the floor. Suddenly, he comes back to life clutching a feather. Upon his return he can now perform miracles, such as healing and the first member of his congregation, a one legged man, grows a new leg after being touched by the preacher.