A black-gloved killer armed with a pair of scissors is stalking the members of Dr. Foles’ (Klaus Kinski) group therapy sessions. Advice columnist Julie (Marianna Hill) receives threatening letters before and after the murders but no one believes the letters are serious. The letters become more deranged and the killings more vicious as Julie’s relationship with Dr. Foles changes from patient to lover. Julie is gripped by paranoia as the shadowy slasher draws closer for the kill.
Schizoid (a.k.a Murder by Mail) has the ingredients to be a slasher fan’s dream. The production company, Golan-Globus, also produced New Year’s Evil and Hospital Massacre. Director David Paulsen made an early entry into the slasher genre with Savage Weekend. Besides Klaus (Crawlspace) Kinski and Marianna (Blood Beach) Hill, the cast features Craig (N.o.E.S. 3) Wasson, Donna (Angel, Jaws 2) Wilkes, Christopher (Taxi) Lloyd, Richard (V) Herd, and Joe (Murphy Brown) Regalbuto.
Paulsen, who also wrote the screenplay, does a nice job of building up the mystery surrounding the killer’s identity. Most of the male characters have problems with women so the viewer is never sure Julie is safe when she goes to the police or her psychiatrist. One wishes Paulsen had thrown a few more deaths into the script as the film starts to drift toward soap opera drama after the second murder. Fortunately, Paulsen closes the film with a tense and suspenseful ending with Julie surrounded by suspects and the police several minutes away.
Schizoid is lacking in the gore department but dishes out heavy doses of sex and sleaze. The sex scenes between Kinski and his female patients are cold and angry, the participants resemble wild animals rutting on nature programs. The film’s most disturbing subplot is the heavy incest angle between the doctor and his daughter, played by Donna Wilkes. he daughter slowly undresses and takes a shower while her father watches. Kinski keeps a blank expression during most of the film except for the scenes involving Wilkes’ character. Klaus acts more like a young man in love rather than a worried father while Wilkes comes across as a jealous, spiteful lover trying to keep her man. Very disturbing stuff but Kinski and Wilkes give the best performances of the movie during these scenes.
Schizoid, which combines giallo elements with the slasher genre, should be better remembered today considering the talent involved. Strong performances from a great cast help Schizoid stand out from the average slasher. Sadly, the film was released at a time when the audiences’ tastes had changed from subtle scares to extreme gore. Hopefully Schizoid will one day find new life on DVD, complete with commentary and behind-the-scenes features. One suspects the ladies in the cast have a few stories to tell.