This stylish thriller is a solid if not entirely satisfying entry in the wave of Psycho-inspired thrillers produced by England's Hammer Studios during the early- to mid-'60s. Interestingly, Paranoiac's plot line owes more to Gaslight than it does to Psycho. Jimmy Sangster's script is a bit lightweight on characterization but it makes up for this problem with a tightly constructed narrative that piles on twist after twist and keeps the viewer constantly guessing about each character's motives. The cast wisely plays the material straight, with the most impressive work coming from a young Oliver Reed; his melodramatic excesses may seem a little campy by modern standards but the visceral intensity of his work fits the film's tone perfectly. The film also benefits from inspired direction by Freddie Francis, who gives the film a unique visual style: Highlights of his work include a beautifully staged opening sequence that introduces all of the characters during a church service and the impressive and unexpected underwater shot that caps a suspense scene set near a pond. Unfortunately, Paranoiac loses steam during its third act and is capped with an abrupt ending that leaves too many loose ends untied. Despite these flaws, Paranoiac remains a worthwhile thriller with enough chills and atmosphere to please fans of old-fashioned horror.
by Donald Guarisco review