Despite John Carpenter’s Halloween laying down the rules for slasher horror, many of the films lumped into that genre were really just updates of the old murder mysteries. You have a killer, you have clues and red herrings, and the suspect is revealed in the final reel. The only concession to the times were in showing a bit more of the killer’s point of view. Schizoid belongs in that lot.
A murderer stalks members of a therapy group, but the police who have to handle “40 murders a week” haven’t yet make the connection. It all seems centered around advice columnist Julie, now divorcing her husband after a month of group therapy and falling for the lead therapist. She’s started receiving threatening letters, the words cobbled together from newspaper headlines in true ransom note fashion.
Schizoid ultimately fails as a horror film. The chases by the killer plod (a late seventies rust yellow Honda has yet to strike fear into anyone, and hopefully Schizoid convinced future directors to stop trying); his weapon of choice (scissors) too mundane to be threatening, it all deadens the film’s momentum. For a movie that felt longer than its running time, its debatable whether these touches are needed at all.
The acting is the saving grace. Klaus Kinski gives a sympathetic performance as the lead therapist, not above crossing all sorts of ethical lines by sleeping with his patients, but still a harried and repentant father to an increasingly spiteful daughter. Christopher Lloyd plays a fine creeper, the natural suspect and therefore not the killer. Nearly all of the other main characters are played by recognizable faces who would go onto great success in television and other genre projects.
In the end Schizoid tries too hard to lump itself in with the slashers. I wonder how the film would play as a murder mystery, with the victims discovered instead of ineptly chased.