Julie (Marianna Hill) attends a therapy group, run by psychologist Pieter Fales (Klaus Kinski), whose members are being stalked and killed by a scissor-wielding maniac. In her day job as advice columnist for the city newspaper, Julie receives a string of threatening letters written by an anonymous hand she suspects is the killer. Her ex-husband, Doug (Craig Wasson), reckons they’re the work of an attention-seeking prankster, so Julie consults Fales. The good doctor has his hands full coping with his unstable daughter, Alison (Donna Wilkes), but having already seduced several patients he promptly makes a move on Julie too. As the killings continue, initially sceptical cops Donahue (Richard Herd) and Jake (Joe Regabulto) persuade Julie to publish a contact number in the newspaper in the hope of luring the killer.
Another Cannon atrocity from producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, Schizoid begs the question: who on earth would trust Klaus Kinski to treat their mental health problems? The German star paid his dues in a string of horror and exploitation films throughout the Sixties and early Seventies before achieving international stardom thanks to his collaborations with Werner Herzog. Hollywood soon beckoned, whereupon Kinski found himself cast in what else but a string of horror and exploitation films, with only the occasional respite. Schizoid is not the worst of these but remains a humdrum murder-mystery. Much like David Cronenberg’s considerably more accomplished The Brood (1979), the film has a suspicious outlook on psycho-therapy, implying the practice fractures family units and turns ordinary minds psychotic. Writer-director David Paulsen has the germ of an interesting idea, but aside from some sporadically suspenseful murder scenes, his treatment is listless and dull. The first half hour is so wayward in structure it seems scenes were randomly jumbled together, while Craig Hundley’s farting synthesizer score has the whole thing resemble a parody.
Like its plethora of shifty suspects, including Christopher Lloyd (then best known for his stint on TV sitcom Taxi), the plot skulks around the edge of a murder mystery without probing especially deeply. The film goes out of its way to make Kinski’s character seem as shifty as possible. Within minutes of appearing onscreen Fales ogles his naked daughter in the shower, makes an obscene phone call, has sex with stripper-cum-murder victim Pat (Flo Lawrence) in her dressing room, and is even shown to have a set of letters cut out from magazines ready to assemble into an anonymous letter. Gasp! Despite these laboured red herrings - including a ludicrous sequence where a paranoid Julie is menaced by a large black man only to discover he has come to visit his boyfriend - any armchair sleuths who can’t guess the killer’s identity within the first twenty minutes should put in a request for a guide dog and white cane.
On a more positive note, the film is surprisingly well acted for the most part, particularly the core trio of Hill, Kinski and Wilkes, later immortalised as the gun-toting teen hooker in cult favourite Angel (1984). Among the best realized sequences in the film is an awkward dinner involving the three, wherein Alison goes completely nuts. By contrast, Craig Wasson delivers such a shrill, amateurish performance, it beggars belief Brian De Palma cast him as the lead in Body Double (1984). Incidentally, wouldn’t a doctor whose name sounds like “fails” be unlikely to instill much confidence in his patients? Having previously penned the heist thriller Diamonds (1975) for Menahem Golan, David Paulsen also directed the horror film Savage Weekend (1979). He went on to direct numerous episodes of Dallas, Knot’s Landing and Dynasty. Now that’s really scary.