Tag Archives: David Paulsen

Schizoid (1980)

schizoid1

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 Weekendwhich 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.

Spoiler Alert!

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

Rated R

Director: David Paulsen

Studio: The Cannon Group

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Savage Weekend (1980)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: The first slasher movie.

Maria (Marilyn Hamlin), who has a very contentious relationship with her ex-husband Greg (Jeff Pomerantz), but who is now in a relationship with Robert (Jim Doerr) a successful businessman, decides to take a weekend trip with some friends to upstate New York. Robert is having a large boat built there and wants to see its progress. The quiet country atmosphere seems like the perfect spot to getaway until a masked killer shows up killing each of them one-by-one.

While Halloween typically gets credited as being the forerunner to the modern day slasher film it’s actually this one that was the first and don’t let the release date fool you. This was filmed in the summer of 1976, a full two years before Halloween came out, but was shelved by its distributors as they thought the concept of a mysterious masked killer was ‘too weird’ and wouldn’t catch on only to eventually release it to theaters once they saw the success of Halloween.

The concept for this came about completely by accident. Writer/director David Paulson was originally hired to write a screenplay for a completely different type of movie, but the investor then retracted the majority of the money he promised leaving Paulson with a mere $20,000 to work with. He decided with such little funds he’d be forced create a story that required a single setting and then came up a scenario that would make the characters stay there and thus the killer-on-the-loose idea was born.

The critics were originally not kind: TV Guide subscribed this as a ‘reprehensible exploitation film’ and ‘the gore effects are extremely gruesome’, which just isn’t true. At best the blood is quite minimal especially when compared to today’s slashers. In fact you’ll find more explicit gore in modern dark comedy films like Shaun of the Dead than you will here.

Critic Joe Baltake criticized the Nicky (Christopher Allport) the gay character stating that he ‘set gay rights activism back several decades’, which I totally disagree with. I actually liked Nicky and was impressed at the way he walked into a backwoods bar and when the rednecks tried to hassle him he single-handedly kicked their asses, which to me worked completely against the gay stereotype.

Through the years critics have become much kinder to this film and its attained a strong cult following and deservedly so. Despite being made 4 decades ago it actually comes off as fresh and inventive because it’s not stifled by the conventional ‘rules’ of the formula, which we’ve become so accustomed to now. I liked how the film opens with a point-of-view shots of our heroine running madly through the forest making the viewer feel they’re the ones being chased.

The fact that the majority of it takes place during the daytime actually makes it scarier especially with it’s weird yellowish tint that permeates every shot. I’m not sure if this was intentional or just a poor film transfer, but it helps to create a surreal look. I also really loved seeing the skeleton of the large boat that was being built inside an abandoned shed. I presume with the low budget this was not made for the story and instead simply worked into the script when the producers came upon it while scouting for locations, but the effect is cool especially when the cast walks around inside it.

The soundtrack is way different from the conventional horror film as well with a country tinged sound and at one point even a classical dance piece, but after watching soooo many scary movies with the same old Friday the 13th-like sound I was more than happy to hear something different. The characters are also multi-dimensional with distinctive personalities. Usually I more than happy to see a cardboard slasher film cast get hacked-up, but here I kind of wanted them to stay around as they were interesting. The murders also don’t work in a mechanical way, but instead start occurring suddenly to the shock of everyone else, which gives it more of a real-time feel.

The only real negative is that despite having a strong beginning and ending the middle part is slow. There’s still enough interactions between the characters to hold mild interest, but there’s no running tension. A good horror movie should be creepy to some degree from beginning to end, but the second act veers off too much making it at times seem more like a soft core porn flick, but overall for the horror connoisseur I’d still recommend this.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: November 14, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes

Rated R

Director: David Paulsen

Studio: Cannon Group

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Region 1), Amazon Video