The 1980 film, Schizoid, is all about the things you can do with scissors.
For instance, in the days before email, text messages, and social media, scissors could be used to cut words out of a magazines. Those words could then be carefully pasted onto construction paper and then sent to an advice columnist like Julie Caffret (Marianna Hill). Julie is pretty upset when she starts getting the notes, largely because they promise an anonymous reign of terror and murder. The police, however, say that the notes probably don’t meant anything. They’re probably just a hoax. I mean, it’s true that several members of Julie’s therapy group have recently been murdered but the letters all talk about committing murder with a gun. Whereas the members of the therapy group are being murdered by someone wielding …. SCISSORS! (Cue that dramatic music.)
Of course, Julie has other things to worry about. For instance, her ex-husband, Doug (Craig Wasson), is still in her life. He’s putting up wallpaper in her office. Or, at least, that’s what he says he’s doing. It’s hard not to notice that he doesn’t seem to be making much progress with the job. Plus, he apparently sleeps in the office, which just seems odd. Then, there’s the building’s creepy maintenance man, Gilbert (Christopher Lloyd), who specializes in making people uncomfortable on elevators. And then there’s the fact that Julie’s therapist, is played by Klaus Kinski!
Seriously, if you were looking for a therapist, would you go to Klaus Kinski?
From the minute Klaus shows up, it’s pretty obvious that the film wants us to assume that he’s the killer and really, it’s hard not to make that assumption. We’re so used to seeing Klaus Kinski play evil and villainous characters and, even 30 years after his death, there are so many stories out there about how difficult Klaus Kinski could be to work with in real life that our natural reaction is to believe any character he plays must have a sinister motivation. In this film, Klaus’s character has an out-of-control teenage daughter (Donna Wilkes) who tries to commit suicide by locking herself in the garage with a running car. When Klaus takes an axe to the garage door, we’re left to seriously wonder if he’s planning on killing her or if he’s actually trying to save her life. That said, Schizoid actually makes good use of Kinski’s menacing persona and Kinski himself gives a performance that elevates the entire film. Kinski actually does manage to keep you guessing as to whether or not the therapist is a monster or if he’s just kind of a jerk.
Schizoid is usually classified as a slasher film, though it actually has more in common with the classic Italian giallo films that it does with any of the Friday the 13th sequels. The killer’s identity is masked through POV shots and, in typical giallo fashion, the killer wears black gloves while committing his crimes. We spend a good deal of the film following the police investigation, which is a typical element of the giallo genre but which is usually treated as an afterthought in post-Friday the 13th slasher films. Much like Fulci’s The New York Ripper, Schizoid is a violent journey into the heart of darkness, a look at a world with no morality and no safety. Also like Fulci’s film, it’s so shamelessly sleazy that it’s easy to miss the fact that it’s actually rather well-directed and acted.
Schizoid turned out to be a better film that I was expecting. That said, I still have to wonder why anyone would select Klaus Kinski to be their therapist.