Peter Walker was a maverick of controversial horror cinema in a time when the genre was just beginning to escape the restrained effects of the suggestive supernatural. Finding horror in the midst of the everyday, Walker evoked terror at the breakfast table and in the bedroom, exchanging traditional Gothic landscapes and symbols (ala Hammer) for scathing modernity. Maligned when he should have been celebrated, his shocking treatments of socially taboo subjects were also thoughtful -- contrary to the dismissive attitudes of many critics both online and in traditional print, whose attitudes say more about their prejudices than anything else. Walker's best work peels back the wounds of polite English society with the precision of a scalpel. This is thinking man's exploitation, shocks with something to say amidst the skin and bloodshed. Walker evoked dread with violence and eroticism but grounded these elements in news stories torn from the headlines, combining exploitation with social ills. In Schizo he accomplishes this with a mix of psychological tension and seediness, enveloping alienation, mental illness, and deteriorating relationships in a Slasher formula.

The plot to this deceptively simple story of psycho-sexual obsession is effective if not overly complex. While the film reveals too soon that split personality is a key element, draining the juice out of what should have been its chief surprise, the plot is filled with enough twists and turns to promise the thrill of tension. When journalists announce that attractive skater Samantha (Lynne Frederick) is engaged to marry a wealthy gentlemen, William Haskin, a creep from her past, begins to stalk her. Samantha struggles with the suspicion that she is loosing her mind. Amidst bloody knives, strange phone calls, and noises in the shadows, she becomes unraveled. It doesn't help that her husband and friends don't believe that William is following her. Walker even throws in a hint of occultism in the guise of a housekeeper who belongs to 'The Psychic Brotherhood.' As her friends are murdered, Samantha finds herself closer to the murderer . . . and a horrible revelation.

This may not be Walker's most horrific or effective film, and the gore is surprisingly scarce. However, it IS a fine example of the director's ability to take a well worn formula and make something intriguing and, yes, even suspenseful out of it. While lacking the conviction, political attacks, or religious jabs of his best work -- Frightmare, House of Whipcord, The Confessional -- this thriller packs an emotional wallop and combines terse set pieces with convincing characterization. Screenwriter David McGillivray would probably have delivered a superior story if given first shot at the material, but instead he was forced to re-work a screenplay of Murray Smith. The resulting marriage between straight mystery and the slasher formula isn't as enticing as his other efforts, then, but he injects dread into what could have been a simple disaster. Walker's approach is as intelligent and fetishistic as ever. Diving head-first into subjects that his era wished to ignore, the director maintains his customary brooding atmosphere. Even more disconcerting is the sense of intimacy he discovers in the relationship between killer and victim, compounded by the emotional devastation of madness. The themes are lent further power by claustrophobic camera angles and moody lighting.

Schizo was released as part of Image's "EuroShock Collection," a naked presentation shorn of extras (typical). Redemption USA releases the film in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. Despite minor instances of print damage, this release looks easily as good as the Image disc (perhaps taken from the same source). Despite some scratches and grain, the picture quality is good. Blacks are sharp and other colors bright and lively. Audio is crisp, featured in serviceable Mono. Extras aren't as impressive as you could have hoped but, again, better than the bare bones Image disc. These include a short Stills Gallery, a Pete Walker filmography, and Redemption USA Trailers.

Review by William Simmons

Released by Redemption USA
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review