Giallo-style shocker rewards patience
Libretio | 12/05/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
(UK - 1976)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
SCHIZO is a giallo-style shocker from British director Pete Walker (HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, FRIGHTMARE), which offers an appropriately convoluted plot allied to a series of brutal killings by person or persons unknown. The marriage of ice-skating star Samantha Gray (Lynne Frederick, from VAMPIRE CIRCUS) to Alan Falconer (former pop singer John Leyton) attracts the unwelcome attentions of a shadowy figure from Frederick's past, a convicted murderer (Jack Watson) recently paroled from prison. When his apparent stalking of Frederick prompts a series of vicious murders, old secrets begin tumbling into the light of day, culminating in all manner of bloodshed and mayhem...
Though SCHIZO is a little more conventional than Walker's previous outings ("It was less Gothique...I wanted less incident and outrage," he explained), it still manages to deliver the goods, even if it takes rather too long to work up a decent head of steam. Most of the shocks and scares are confined to the second half of the film, and while the steady accumulation of narrative details pays dividends in the end, individual scenes are somewhat labored, not helped by Frederick's lack of presence in the leading role. By contrast, Stephanie Beacham (DRACULA A.D. 1972, INSEMINOID) is effortlessly charming as a family friend who turns detective when Frederick identifies Watson as her stalker - had the roles been reversed, this could have been a small masterpiece of psychological horror. Other stand-outs include veteran character actor Watson (recognizable from brief appearances in countless British movies, here given a much weightier role than usual), and a bearded John Fraser (TUNES OF GLORY, THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE) as a psychiatrist who pays the price for digging too deeply into the circumstances surrounding the death of Frederick's mother.
Walker was always aware of his limitations as a director, allowing clever scriptwork to dictate his method, but he was no hack, as SCHIZO ably demonstrates. Here, his point-and-shoot style is frequently punctuated by moments of genuine visual dexterity, such as the circling of a pen on a newspaper article which gives way via dissolve to a spinning ice-skater, or the truly unsettling seance towards the end of the film in which psychic Trisha Mortimer manifests physical signs of possession by one of the killer's former victims. The subsequent murders are blunt and bloody, with no pretence to subtlety. Peter Jessop's artful cinematography and Chris Burke's sensitive art direction makes a virtue of the film's slightly seedy locations, and while a good fifteen minutes could have been cut from the 109 minute running time, Alan Brett's keen editing skills manages to streamline an increasingly complicated scenario.
Sadly, this was Walker's last collaboration with writer David McGillivray, who had originally been assigned to overhaul an old unused script by Murray Smith (author of Walker's earlier films), but McGillivray felt that the killer's identity was too obvious from the outset. Maybe so, but viewers may still be taken off-guard by some of the climactic revelations. Bottom line: If you're a fan of Walker's output or British exploitation in general, you'll overlook the film's slow-burning tempo and enjoy its outlandish plot developments. Worth a look.
Atmospheric chiller from Pete Walker!
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you have never seen one of Pete Walker's films, you are really missing out on something.Although not Pete Walker's best film, SCHIZO (1976) bears the winning trademarks of this unusual director/producer: highly atmospheric settings (especially the seedy and depressed aspect of England of the 70's), characters disturbed by confused memories of childhood trauma, and a slow-paced plot line that accelerates near the end of the film to a strange and twisted endpoint.The acting is SCHIZO is (for a horror chiller) very good. The screenplay (by David McGillivray) is quite excellent, as is the photography .Unfortunately, the print offered by IMAGE is produced from a well-worn original -the picture quality is marred by noticable fading in colour and "pitted" images, especially in the first several "reels".As is standard with the EUROSHOCK COLLECTION, there are no extras. However, given the visceral substance of the film itself, the DVD is highly recommended to anyone seriously interested in the horror genre."
Slasher/Giallo Offering from Great Britan
Michael T | NYC | 03/03/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Some movies get too much recognition while others don't get enough. "Schizo", falls into the latter category.
Released in 1976...sandwiched between "Black Christmas" & Halloween Regrettably, this film is constantly overlooked as a forerunner to the American Slasher. Not to mention, having Italian Giallo trademarks
Regarding it's slasher/gialli pedigree,it's all here. Red herrings, childhood trauma, sexual transgressions and of course the violent death scenes! The killings are all pretty brutal..one scene in particular is an inspired "Jason/Friday the 13th" piece of work...5 years ahead of the game, mind you.
Performances from all the leads whilst not outstanding are competent.
On the downside,"Schizo", has some moments where the pace could pick a bit but not to the point of total boredom.
"Schizo", is more than a "body count" film with senseless and endless annoying teenagers waiting to get offed. Hopefully, this film will one day receive the reappraisal it yearns for and deserves.
Running Time: 109 Minutes