Movies From the Black Lagoon: Schizo

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Schizo - 1976, Rated R
by Tom Doty

A psycho-killer terrorizes an ice skating champion in this British chiller that predated the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan brouhaha.
The film opens with a grizzled man buying a newspaper .The cover story tells of an ice skater's impending marriage (must have been a slow news day). The man sets out for the nuptials whilst having a flashback that features a lot of screaming and blood, but no details on how all of this fits together. Meanwhile we meet the bride to be, Samantha. She's reasonably excited about her upcoming marriage but there are some worries. First off her intended is a rather dull, though successful, carpet manufacturing company president. All of his family intends to be at the affair but that's a problem for Samantha.
Turns out she's an orphan and has no relatives on the guest list. Her social anxiety is understandable considering how many questions she can expect about her past. Too bad that her family history is about to get revisited, now that the grungy guy from the beginning of the film hits town. His sole aim appears to be freaking out Samantha and that's not hard to do in her fragile state. Soon she's getting odd messages and coming home to find that furniture has been moved around.
Things only get worse when the stranger crashes the wedding and sneaks a machete onto the wedding cake cart. Samantha totally loses it when she spies the large blade but this is all far from over.
Pretty soon the people around Samantha begin to die in horrible ways and she is forced to come clean about her past. Eventually she relates that she was seven years old when her mother was stabbed to death by her latest boyfriend. Turns out the guy is now out of jail and was last seen before the wedding announcement hit the papers.
It all comes down to a stalk and slash scene, set in the carpet factory, which reveals the true killer and their twisted mental state (see title).
This one is a little long for a thriller, clocking in at an hour and forty-nine minutes. That said it mostly works except for fans of carnage who will have to wait till the 45-minute mark for the "catalog of creative ways to kill your characters "to be opened. All credit goes to director Pete Walker. In the 70's Walker was pretty much it for the low budget horror scene in Britain. While studios like Amicus and Hammer drew the top terror stars of the time (Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee) Walker retaliated by upping the gore in his chillers, which almost always took place in middle class settings. He worked with a stable of dependable stage actors and stuck with the same writer on all of his projects, David McGillivray. The writer does a decent job here though the psychiatrist character is a lame duck that sports all the ethics of an investment banker. This guy couldn't diagnose a head cold so the jokes on him when he becomes an early victim.
Walker may have delivered on the gore and terror on most occasions but he also enjoyed having a go at societal norms. One of his favorite targets was the family unit and here he skewers it by showing how much damage a human being can inflict after they've been denied affection by a parent. It's a theme he would explore again, along with cannibalism, in his next feature "Fright mare". Check out any of his efforts if you need a change from the current crop of horror remakes and you'll be glad you did. Look out however because this guy delivers the goods and refuses to give in to audience expectations. His films tend to rock realistic finales that are far form happy and usually see the killer remain at large. Enjoy his flicks for the straight up horrors they offer, at least until Hollywood remakes them and waters the material down for mass consumption.
Best Line: " Hardly a week goes by without him making an attempt on his own life, or mine. He's quite harmless."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.