By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Killing group therapy members.
Julie (Marinna Hill) is an advice columnist who after going through a recent divorce begins attending group therapy sessions run by Dr. Pieter Fales inside his home. The Dr. soon falls for Julie and the two form a romantic relationship much to the dismay of both Alison (Donna Wilkes), the Dr.’s teenage daughter whom he live with, and Julie’s volatile ex-husband Doug (Craig Wasson). It’s also around this time that Julie begins receiving anonymous letters threatening to kill her. When she goes to the police they dismiss it as harmless, but then members of her therapy group begin turning-up dead.
This was yet another product of the notorious Cannon Group studio whose output was highly variable. This production proved to be on the low-end where writer/director David Paulsen was assigned to write a script in 1-month that had to be a horror story, which needed come in under $1 million budget and had to have Klaus Kinski in the cast as he was currently under contract. Paulsen is better known for having done Savage Weekend, which is considered the first slasher movie. While that movie was intended to be a murder mystery, but ended up by accident giving birth to a whole new genre this one worked in reverse as the intent was to make a horror film, but the result is a bland murder mystery.
A lot of the problem stems from the murder scenes, which are too brief and too spread out and no imagination given to how they’re pulled-off. Just one stab with the scissors and the victim goes down, which gets old fast. The killer is never seen. Having a mystery as to his identity is fine, but he still needs to be wearing some sort of mask, or frightening get-up that allows him to be memorable. Having him just be a shadowy figure that’s seen in only brief snippets does not build tension. The group therapy scenes get botched too. The topics discussed could easily be done in polite company over dinner and nothing close to any actual psychological issues making these moments as boring as the killings.
Klaus Kinski is one of the few things that keep it diverting. While he alienated many a director he worked with and wasn’t exactly loved by even his own family members he’s still with his unique facial features a fascinating actor to watch. Having him play a psychiatrist when he was known in real-life to be rather crazy and erratic is inspired casting and he manages to pull-off the good guy role in successful fashion though his presence didn’t come without controversy. Flo Lawrence, who gets billed as Flo Gerish, stated that during a scene where he makes-out with her he touched her in private areas that was not called for in the script and her look of shock and discomfort in the moment is genuine.
Wilkes is equally magnetic and you get to see her fully nude near the beginning and she looks great. She easily steals every scene that she’s in and should’ve been made the star while the cardboard Hill, who gives a flatlined performance, dumped. I was impressed too with the way she was able to hold her own in the scenes that she did with Klauski as he was known to be notoriously difficult with his co-stars. In his autobiography ‘Kinski Uncut’ he alleges that the two had an affair though Wilkes has never confirmed this and while she has a fan page on Facebook this is one movie that she rarely ever mentions.
While the film remains moderately watchable the end reveal of the killer, which turns out to be Wasson, was a big disappointment. Normally I can start to figure out who the killer is near the end and in some rare cases I can be completely surprised, but I knew the second Wasson’s character gets introduced that he was clearly the bad guy. There is a point in the film where a detective, who’s speaking with Hill, picks up some scissors that she has on a book shelf in her office, making me believe that she might actually be the culprit. Had that been the case this might’ve gotten a few more props it also would’ve helped explain the film’s title as she’d be exposed as having a dual personality, but as it is the title really doesn’t have anything to do with the story.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: September 15, 1980
Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes
Director: David Paulsen
Studio: The Cannon Group
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video