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STUDIO Shout! Factory
RUNNING TIME X-Ray: 89 minutes, Schizoid: 89 minutes
• Interview with Director Boaz Davidson (X-Ray)
• Interview with Actress Donna Wilkes (Schizoid)
• Theatrical Trailer (Schizoid)
Two forgotten Cannon slasher movies finally hit DVD and Blu-Ray.
(X-Ray) Barbi Benton, Charles Lucia, Jon Van Ness, John Warner Williams
Susan Jeremy (Barbi Benton) goes to a local hospital for a “routine examination.” Once inside, she discovers that someone doesn’t want her to check out… unless it’s in a body bag. A psychotic killer keeps her trapped inside the hospital, having fixed her x-rays to make it looks like she has a terminal illness. Meanwhile, he brutally murders everyone she comes in contact with!
X-Ray picks up in the past where a girl named Susan and her boyfriend (?) spend Valentine’s Day together playing with a train set (they’re implied to be together even though they’re maybe nine.) There’s a knock at the door and Susan opens it to find an envelope addressed to her. Inside the envelope is a Valentine from Harold, which Susan and the boy laugh about.
As Susan walks into the kitchen to cut her Valentines Day cake (your guess is as good as mine on that one) with the machete her parents keep awkwardly stuffed in the silverware drawer, the boy falls quiet. When Susan returns to the other room her boyfriend is now hanging by his neck from a coat rack and Harold is menacingly laughing from the window. I have no idea what happened, presumably Harold harnessed Carrie-like psychic powers that will never be mentioned again, because there’s no way he climbed in, killed this kid, hung his corpse, and climbed back out in the time allotted.
Years later and adult Susan drops by the hospital to pick up the results of a physical she had to get for her new job. Unfortunately a tall, wild-eyed, psychopath has killed her doctor and replaced her x-ray with one of a patient with a terminal illness. Susan begins a nightmare as she’s lead around the hospital by a series of creepy wild-eyed men that could totally be the killer. Her only solace is the nice medical intern who continually helps her out. There’s no way “Harry” could possibly be the killer.
If I had to explain slasher movies to somebody I would probably show them X-Ray. It really is an example of just about every genre trope you can think of: Prologue with one of the main characters and/or the antagonist as children suffering a traumatic event? Female protagonist who is the only person to realize something is wrong and is treated as crazy because of this? Takes place on a holiday for no discernible reason? Killer dressed in an instant costume that obscures their face and head? Fake scares? Gratuitous nudity? A concerned boyfriend trying to get to the bottom of everything? The protagonist and their loved ones hugging as the credits roll over the scene? Does the protagonist receive a piece of a victim in the guise of a gift? Do we see from the killer’s point of view? Is the killed out for revenge for some sleight either real or imagined? Decoy characters that are meant to fool the audience into thinking they’re the killer? Check, check, check, check to the tenth power.
X-Ray’s main problem is that it gives the audience too much information up front. We know Harry is the killer because we find out the creepy kid who Vader-choked Susan’s child-suitor was named Harold. It makes the endless parade of scary creeps (literally every male character that isn’t Susan’s boyfriend or Harold) obvious red herrings.
There’s a great psychological angle at play here as well. Susan being sent from place to place, the lurid way her replacement doctor “examines” her, the way that something is obviously wrong with her test results but nobody is telling her anything plays on the audience’s inborn fear of hospitals and makes the whole scenario nightmarish. The problem is that we as the audience know that the test is fake and the hospital staff, rather than being malefic, are just awful at the their jobs. There’s even an attempt to make it look like Susan is either imagining this or performing the murders herself, but we’ve seen too much by this point to buy that story.
We see the explanation behind every weird that that happens before it happens, robbing that later moment of all its surreal terror and making us scared for Susan than scared with her. This approach isn’t necessarily a bad one if the the kills are memorable, interesting, or just particularly well done, but they’re all pretty trite even by 80s standards. A good editor could remove the prequel and most of the kill scenes and make a short but much scarier movie.
This isn’t to say that X-Ray doesn’t work as a movie. Barbie Benton is a decent actress and an almost supernaturally attractive woman. The sparse sets and heavy shadows make the hospital look abandoned, and the killer is absolutely terrifying with his bug eyes, heavy breathing, and the sheer rage apparent in his every action.
I can’t really explain it because a quick examination of any part of this movie reveals just how silly the whole thing is and it brings nothing new or interesting to the table, it’s just… good. At no point during the run-time did I find myself staring at the clock but I’ve hated movies with more going for them than this one and those movies had less wrong with them as well. I can’t even give you a reason why it’s good, I just know that I really enjoyed it and would happily watch it again.
Klaus Kinski, Mariana Hill, Christopher Lloyd, Craig Wasson
In this “lurid shocker”, a newspaper advice columnist (Mariana Hill) starts receiving threats from a mysterious person. At the same time, the female members of her psychiatrist’s (Klaus Kinski) therapy group are being murdered one by one… by a maniac wielding a large pair of scissors. Could these incidents be linked?
Schizoid follows and advice columnist who is getting creepy letters from an apparent psychopath as women in her therapy group begin turning up dead. Meanwhile the leader of the group (played by Klaus Kinski) deals with the troubled teenage daughter who is upset at her father’s various sexual liaisons with his female patients. She sees these trysts as apathy over her mother’s death.
Schizoid is what I like to call a non-slasher. It’s a movie that’s advertised as a slasher but features very little of what the target demographic wants. Death Valley, When a Stranger Calls, and Psycho II are non-slashers. There aren’t a lot of kills here and the ones there are don’t try to be spectacular or gory. There’s nudity and sex but those scenes all involve Klaus Kinski’s face which is the opposite of an aphrodisiac.
Schizoid is kind of the opposite of X-Ray. Where the latter is a kitschy trope-laden schlockfest that manages to be entertaining, Schizoid is a well-built thriller with emotion and gravitas that’s kind of a dud.
The acting in Schizoid is pretty solid, Christopher Lloyd steals several scenes in his small but effective role as a disgruntled handyman who may or may not be the killer. I’m not sure if Klaus Kinski gave an awful performance in this or if Tommy Wiseau has simply ruined foreign accents in movies forever.
The plot is pretty solid as well: an equal case is made for several people who might be the killer and I personally didn’t guess who it was until just before they were revealed. The only real fault I find with the movie’s logic is that it expects me to believe that several reasonably attractive women are sexually attracted to a man who looks like Klaus Kinski (seriously, he looks like a toad with ears. Also he was a pretty awful human being so I don’t feel bad for making fun of his looks.) But in spite of all this, Schizoid just isn’t very entertaining. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch but it’s rather forgettable, which I am sure has played some part in this movie’s arduous journey to DVD.
I would recommend this double feature based on the raw entertainment value of X-Ray alone but feel free to wait around for a sale as there’s nothing transcendent about either of these movies. X-Ray’s fun and Schizoid is okay but it’s not worth full price.
It’s pretty bare bones. X-Ray has an interview with the director which doesn’t have a lot of interesting tidbits. Schizoid has an interview with Mariana Hill and a theatrical trailer, neither of which add much value to the discs. The box art (both within and without) make it seem like Schizoid is in black-and-white which it is not. There are no subtitles on either the DVD or Blu-Ray.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars