Schizoid (1980)

This movie is very much like a perfect storm. The madness that is Klaus Kinski, distilled through the bombastic style of Cannon Films and the early 80s slasher aesthetics has resulted in a rather cheesy, delightful little low budget slasher horror movie. With some additional melodrama elements and clever subversion twists thrown into the mix what you get is a movie that is a highly entertaining schlocky horror thriller, far greater than the sum of its parts and I loved every minute of it.

I might as well jump right into the spoiler territory, as much of my enjoyment of watching the movie cannot be talked about without giving out one or two crucial plot points. The most obvious thing one to talk about of course is the identity of the killer. Even if you aren’t familiar with Kinski as an actor and don’t know his extensive filmography where he’s always playing the deranged villain, the moment you see him for the very first time on screen, strutting around in his sharp suit, you pretty much have him pegged as the killer. I mean, how could you not? His entire visage, down to his deranged looking face and strikingly blond hair paint him as the devil incarnate. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck… Anyway, normally something this blatant foreshadowing in a movie would be an a glaring sign that it has to be a red herring meant to throw the viewer off, but since this is Kinski we’re talking about, you just think “oh wow, they don’t even be bother to pretend he’s not the bad guy” and shrug it off. After all, it’s Klaus Kinski, why would you cast him in a slasher movie and not make him be the bad guy? It’s like seeing Sean Bean movie and not expect Bean to die at the end. But as it turns out, Kinski actually is not the the killer in this movie. What a curve ball! In hindsight it’s a rather ingenious subversion of your expectations, sullied only by the fact that the real killer has none of the nefarious charisma that comes naturally of Kinski, so the actual climactic confrontation with the real killer does not have the right type of panache to deliver a wholly satisfying climax. It’s not entirely terrible, mind you, but you just know that with Klaus as the bad guy this movie would have been able to go out with a giant bang, rather than a slightly disappointing fizzle.

Another rather brilliant twist that made this movie pretty exciting to watch involves Kinski’s daughter in the movie, called Alison, who throughout the course of the movie is shown to have a small scale meltdown over the idea of her widower father dating another woman, i.e. Julie the protaginist of the movie. Initially Alison just seems like a  troubled kid, doing crazy things like dressing up in her dead mother’s clothes, trowing melodramatic fits and playing with her father’s gun, but as the movie goes on, around the halfway mark you’re starting to realize that there’s more to her as a character and eventually, well in advance to the actual reveal, you are able to deduce that it’s actually her who has been sending all those threatening letters to Julie this whole time, instead of the serial killer we’ve seen killing people left and right. It’s a brilliant little twist that, along with her quite frankly hysterical and violent outbursts, adds nice complexity and depth to otherwise rather generic slasher. It’s also quite weird and sort of amusing to see Kinski play such a caring, vulnerable father figure who is entirely helpless in trying to help her ailing daughter, despite being a therapist.

Even though I personally liked Schizoid, there are some very obvious reasons why it hasn’t gained that much fame and success. For one thing, nothing about it is especially original. The murders aren’t particularly inventive, the killer and the design isn’t very iconic at all, the weapon of choice (large pointy scissors) is kind of bland and unremarkable, and though there are twists, none of them are as mindblowing as say, the ending of Psycho. It’s just a competent, a dime a dozen slasher movie, and while that is kinda the source of much of its basic charm, the mundane mediocrity of it, that doesn’t really make it a particularly compelling movie for most people if you’re not a big fan of slasher movies.

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