Paranoiac Blu-ray Review (Scream Factory)

Something ain't right with this family

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Freddie Francis’ Paranoiac is an odd duck of a film, both because of its twisty subject matter and also because it sits a bit outside of Hammer’s horror wheelhouse. Regardless, lots of the alumni are here: Jimmy Sangster pens the script from a Josephine Tey novel, leading beauty Janette Scott plays an addled and incestuously-confused young woman, and Oliver Reed shows up to steal the show with a disturbed, mostly drunken performance. Paranoiac takes a bit from Psycho in its approach, looking at the ease in which a mind can be warped after the traumatic experience of losing someone close. Unlike Hitchcock’s masterpiece, though, Paranoiac is more risque and debatably bawdier, with a penchant for dealing with taboo topics and consistently heaping additional twists on top of its widespread mental illness.

The crux of the plot revolves around the Ashby family, rich but suffering from the untimely deaths of a mother and father and, subsequently, the suicide of brother Tony (Alexander Davion). Siblings Eleanor (Scott) and Simon (Reed) are still reeling from the fallout years later, the former overwrought with grief and the latter dealing with death the only way he knows how – by drinking, driving, and overall being a surly asshole. Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell) is none too well either, though as the new matriarch of the family she’s attempting to hold everything together. Except it all goes south when Tony shows up again, claiming that he faked his suicide and ran away from home to escape his own grief. Of course, nothing is as simple as that, right? No one’s too sure if Tony is really Tony or an imposter, and it certainly makes sense since he is due to inherit a good sum of money.

Sangster’s plot is twisty but overall extremely pulpy fun. There’s nothing too literary about what Paranoiac is trying to do with its grief motif; that’s really just a way to get to more soapiness. Instead, the film melds Psycho‘s fascination with necrophiliac tendencies along with a number of red herrings, a quick sequence with a masked killer, and the aforementioned incest plot as Eleanor falls in love with Tony, whom she thinks is her brother, only to find out he’s truly not (that… doesn’t make the incest thing any better). All of these items in a quick 90 minute film? Ooh lala!

Reed really does much of the work here, putting in an unhinged portrayal that seems like it was a total blast to pull off. His drunken antics only further exacerbate the audience’s distance from him in the chilling final moments of the movie as he makes off with a corpse; still, the film makes it clear that no one is making it out of the Ashby family tree unscathed (and those poor little ones that fake Tony and Eleanor will presumably bring into the world!). Davion also does good work with something of a dual role playing both alter-ego Tony and his true self, though that doesn’t get to shine too much since they seem nearly one in the same; and the film doesn’t get too in-depth about fake Tony’s true intentions.

Paranoiac is enjoyably demented, and most will find that Hammer’s decision to up the ante with more deviancy than Psycho is a good one that sets it apart. It’s obviously not meant to reach the same heights, but rather plumb the depths, and it does so with zeal. With good performances and a striking conclusion, viewers would be mental not to partake in Paranoiac‘s offerings.


Scream Factory has released Paranoiac on Blu-ray as part of their Collector’s Edition series. This film got a Blu-ray release back in 2010 by Eureka, and from screenshots that looked to be a particularly good transfer even despite the eleven-year time lapse. Scream Factory’s edition features a new 2K scan from the interpositive. In motion without reference, the image looks fairly detailed despite some noticeable softness. However, when comparing screenshots to the previous release, one can see a slight stretching on Scream Factory’s transfer that does skew the image. Also, Eureka’s edition looks a bit sharper than this release, which is surprising given its age.

However, for those that are not actually comparing the film while viewing, Scream Factory’s transfer is sufficient enough, with good contrast management and a light-bodied grain scale. The horizontal stretching is not off-putting during the viewing experience. Despite the flaws, Scream’s release can be a good option for those that don’t own the Eureka edition or want to import, but it’s important to note that it’s not the best transfer available for this film.

Audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track that sounds strong with no noticeable dips or audio ailments. English subtitles are also included.

Extra features include a few new offerings that put this a step above Eureka’s relatively bare-bones release (barring the isolated music score). A new interview with Kim Newman gives historical context about Hammer’s acquisition of the film and its release. An audio commentary with film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck offers additional insight into the picture and its various stars. Finally, another film historian, Jonathan Rigby, weighs in on the film and its merits. Also included is a previous making-of featurette, stills gallery, and trailer.

Extra Features

  • NEW 2K Scan From The Interpositive
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck
  • NEW Drink To Deception – An Interview With Author/Film Historian Kim Newman (HD; 14:48)
  • NEW A Toast To Terror – An Interview With Author/Film Historian Jonathan Rigby (HD; 25:23)
  • The Making Of Hammer’s PARANOIAC Hosted By Author Wayne Kinsey (HD; 27:57)
  • Theatrical Trailer (unrestored HD; 2:35)
  • Still Gallery (no chapter breaks; 5:56)


Scream Factory’s release doesn’t have as strong a transfer as the previous Eureka offering, but it does gather a number of additional features and an arguably fine new 2K transfer for this Collector’s Edition release. Those who aren’t extremely picky with video quality should find this meets their Paranoiac needs.

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