Director: David Paulsen
Klaus Kinski, Mariana Hill, Craig Wasson

Because I have reviewed hundreds of bad movies over the years, I can understand why some readers might think that I am a cynical kind of person, one who more often than not sees the glass as half empty instead of being half full. Well, that is partially true. Believe me, I try my best to find good unknown movies to review, and I usually manage to write a positive review about half of the time. But this task to find good movies is quite often very hard to do, since I will admit there are more stinkers than gems out there. More often than not when I approach a movie I haven't seen before, my guard is up and I approach with suspicion. But I think that part of my movie cynicism comes from a lot of bad experiences I have with various people over the years. In past reviews, I have described what an oddball I was growing up, and it kind of made me an outcast among my peers. It didn't help that I was a voracious reader growing up, and I read countless tales of people acting badly. So unless it's a person I have known very well for a long time, I approach that person (or a work from that person like a movie) with my guard up. There are many people in this society of ours that I don't trust. For example, I don't trust any politicans. It seems that just about every politician eventually gets corrupt to some degree, or more likely corrupt to a great degree. I also don't trust butchers. That's because I have seen horror stories on TV about meat being prepared in unsanitary conditions. For that matter, I also don't trust chefs, since you can never be sure if they have spit in your food or not. (Curiously, I eat butcher meats and at restaurants all the time. Maybe filth and foreign saliva does make food taste better.)

There's one other profession that I feel somewhat uneasy about, and that is the medical profession. I have had my own bad experiences with doctors. When I became severely ill several years ago, I went through a whole bunch of different doctors trying to find a solution to my ailment. And some of these doctors either didn't help in any way, or just made the problem even worse. Eventually I got better, but the hell that I went through gave me a severely negative view of the entire medical profession. However, I got one positive thing out of the entire experience, and that was that it made clear to me how much potential horror movies involving doctors and the entire medical profession can have. Just think about it for a while. There are many people out there who are very sick and are depending on doctors, putting their lives into their hands. What if there was a doctor who took advantage of this trust in order to commit various horrific acts? Apparently a lot of people would agree with me - just look at the countless movies that have been made about mad or simply homicidal doctors. For that matter, the entire medical field is ripe for horror exploitation. There are not only a lot of crazy doctors; there are also a lot of crazy patients out there. One of those patients could easily do some slashing on his or her own. And the medical settings themselves contribute to the uneasy atmosphere. For example, an asylum is a great place to set a medical horror movie, since not only would you have dozens of crazy patients as suspects, the atmosphere could easily make a doctor crack under the strain and have him or her commit various sordid acts.

There's no doubt about it - patients, doctors, and medical settings can all contribute to a successful horror movie. For example, there is the Canadian horror movie Visiting Hours, one of the more sucessful slashers of its era both in quality and at the box office. Pre-viewing Schizoidresearch on Schizoid revealed to me that it didn't fare as well during or after its theatrical release, but I still had high hopes for it. The movie promised to exploit all three of those elements I listed at the beginning of its paragraph. The medical setting that the events of the movie revolve around is a therapy group. In this group, all the patients have some sort of big problem on their minds, problems big enough that each of them is understandably a suspect. And the doctor who leads the group is played by none other than Klaus Kinski, who I think you know was unsteady in real life as he often played his characters in movies. Though you might think Kinski's doctor character is clearly seen throughout bumping off people, actually the character is one of several suspects in the movie. Kinski (Salt In The Wound) plays Dr. Pieter Fales, who has a lot of problems in his personal life, not just the fact that patients in his therapy group are being killed off one by one. One of his problems is his unsteady daughter Allison (Donna Wilkes, Angel), who does not appreciate her father being overly friendly with several women in the therapy group. And one of those women is Julie (Hill, The Baby) an advice columnist who recently has been getting threatening letters in the mail. Julie is divorced from her husband Doug (Wasson, Ghost Story), who apparently still has feelings towards her. Adding to the list of suspects is Julie's janitor, the very weird Gilbert (Christopher Lloyd, Interstate 60). Police detectives Jake (Joel Regalbuto, The Sword And The Sorcerer) and Donahue (Richard Herd, T.J. Hooker) are on the case, but how many more people will be killed before they catch the killer, if ever?

Schizoid has some immediate interest not just from the ingredients that it promises to exploit. For one thing, the movie was one of the first productions from notorious movie producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus after they purchased Cannon Films the year before. And it's one of the few horror movies they made in their careers. As I said in the previous paragraph, the movie didn't make a big impact critically or financially when released... but the movie was an indication of what was to come from the cousins. For starters, while Schizoid was a conservatively budgeted enterprise like many of their subsequent movies, it doesn't take long to see that the cousins had an ability to make a good looking movie despite the somewhat limited funds. The movie has good photography and lighting, whether a scene takes place indoors or outdoors, and whatever time of day or night it is. While the budget didn't apparently allow for any sets to be built, the locations are well chosen and furnished by the set decorators for the most part. In fact, many of these surroundings add an air of authenticity that super slick sets might have lacked. But the movie also looks good in ways other than basic production values. The movie also boasts an ingredient that was to be found in subsequent Golan and Globus productions: sleaze. The main kind of sleaze to be found in Schizoid is the sexual kind. Among other things, the movie displays several young women in a hot tub, there's a scene at a strip club, there are a couple of sex scenes, and there is one scene where a father stumbles across his daughter undressing, and doesn't immediately look away.

That last scene, as you may have guessed, has Klaus Kinski playing the father. What you may not have guessed, however, is that he also is involved in the aforementioned two sex scenes in the movie. But don't worry - director David Paulsen (Savage Weekend) thankfully has Kinski keep all his clothes on in the first sex sequence, and in the second sex sequence shoots Kinski from the chest up (though he does allow Kinski to do some nipple licking.) Though this restraint used for Kinski's erotic moments also seems to extend to how Kinski is used for the rest of Schizoid. In many ways, the movie wastes Kinski. In the first third of the movie, Kinski has hardly any dialogue. He does get more to say in the subsequent portion of the movie, but again he's mostly wasted. His character says very little as to what he's thinking or feeling; in the end, Kinski doesn't have much of a character at all. Sure, Kinski does bring in some instant creepiness just by showing up, but that's about all when it comes to his character's personality. But Kinski is not the only actor in the movie who is not given much to do. Christopher Lloyd is skilled enough with his acting to make his character a believable suspect, but he only has two or so (brief) scenes in the movie to show his stuff. Craig Wasson as the upset ex-husband of the movie's heroine only appears in one small scene in the first third of the movie, and only makes a few other equally minimal scenes in the remaining hour. Joel Regalbuto and Richard Herd also don't have much to do in the movie, despite the fact that you would expect their policemen characters to be heavily involved when the body count starts to rise.

Worst of all are the portrayal of the killer's victims. They are given almost no screen time or dialogue that would develop them as real characters. They are so anonymous and interchangeable that we in the audience have no feelings one way or another when they are bumped off. It doesn't help that the stalk and slash scenes themselves are generally badly handled by director Paulsen. Now, I will give these scenes a little credit; Paulsen does direct these scenes in a way that suggest he was influenced by Italian giallo movies. Among other touches, the killer wears a black hat and gloves, and uses scissors to kill. Though touches like those give these scenes a little interest, in the end they do little to make the stalk and slash scenes come across more than routine at best. There's surprisingly very little blood spilled in the actual murders, or subsequently seen when the bodies are discovered. Even worse is the total body count; believe it or not, the killer's final body count is a measly three victims. Had there been a bigger (and bloodier) body count, I think Schizoid would have been a lot better. This would not only have given the movie a lot more action to keep things lively, it also would have increased the tension considerably. As it is, the movie is for the most part extremely boring, with almost nothing of real consequence happening between the murders. It's scene after scene of padding. There's not even a real mystery of who the murderer might be and why the murderer is bumping people off. That's mainly because in the first murder sequence, director Paulson botches one shot of the "unidentified" murderer so badly that we see enough of the murderer's face so that we can identify him or her long before the movie gets to its "surprise revelation". In the end, this Schizoid has the apathy and lack of human interest that real life patients of the disorder have, and would only be of interest to Cannon completionists.

(Posted June 23, 2020)

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See also: Crawlspace, Slaughter High, To All A Good Night