Top 10 Horror Movie Schizophrenics!

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

So, how many of you went and checked out SPLIT last weekend? Judging by the whopping $40 million it culled at the U.S. box-office, it would appear a whole lot of you guys and gals got down with M. Night Shyamalan’s latest bona fide hit. Which, of course, got us to wondering…

What is about schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder that’s so damn unnerving? After-all, these sorts of psychologically fractious characters have been around since the dawn of cinema. Hitchcock, Polanski, Fincher, Scorsese, Cronenberg, De Palma…they’ve all addressed the issue in their careers. Is it the mystery? The madness? The sheer unpredictable nature of altering identities from one minute to the next? Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that James McAvoy has given a hell of a multifaceted performance. And hey, he’s in good company. Enjoy above our Top 10 Horror Movie Schizophrenics!


It all starts here folks! Can you believe this sick sumbitch has been dwelling in the annals of celluloid since 1920, on the page since 1886? Oh but he has, or they have, as DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE has long been held as the preeminent metaphor for the duality of man. While not clinically diagnosed as schizophrenic, the story of a doctor injecting himself with a formula that allows him to unleash his own inner demons deals with the same sort of psychic schism between good and evil. The story has been adapted, updated, appropriated and refashioned more times than we can count, but none have played the title characters more convincingly than the great Fredric March, who won an Oscar in 1931 for his deeply disturbing dual-performance.


Mommy issues much? Aside from the bottomless shock value of killing off its movie star leading actress, one of the enduring pillars of PSYCHO is that it’s at once a progenitive slasher film, a deep-seeded psychosexual thriller, and by proxy, a maddening case of murderous multiple personalities. Indeed, our seemingly demure and urbane Norman Bates proves to be a cross-dressing serial-slasher who embodies his own mother’s desiccated visage and usurps her identity as his own. Shite’s f*cked up! And the thing is, there’s no clear cut delineation between the two. Norman dresses like his mom, yet takes orders from her fetid skeletal remains, all the while trying to keep a calm facade when running the Bates Motel as Norman. Yeah, PSYCHO’s an understatement!


Let’s hear it for our only female contingent at the party, awarded to the great Catherine Deneuve in Roman Polanski’s searing schizoid assault REPULSION. This is a hell of a movie! And equally hellish is the scrambled, obsessively compulsive mind-state of Carol Ledoux, a Belgian immigrant living in London with her sister Helen. There, she fumbles around in a dazed torpor, almost mute, as she spirals into a psychological vexed head-space. She obsesses over things like cracks in the floor and trying to repair them, or the thought of a home invader breaking in and sexually abusing her. She locks herself into the apartment by herself, begins seeing and hearing things that simply aren’t there. She becomes entranced by her own schizoid psychosis until it manifests violently.


While we’re fully aware FIGHT CLUB isn’t technically a horror film, that genre-hound David Fincher floods the picture with more brutally blood-covered violence than most horror yarns, not to mention yanks the psychological rug out from under us in the third act, yeah, the movie well earns a schizophrenic spot near the top. Besides, never have we been invited to live in the twisted skins and head-spaces of two wildly disparate characters at once, only to realize they are in fact one in the same. Tyler Durden is the grand paradigm of what The Narrator would like to embody – tough, sexy, confident, statuesque, in control of his own life, etc. Hints to this are littered throughout the film, including the title sequence of The Narrator’s brain wiring and fear impulses. Want more hints? Fincher claims there’s a Starbucks coffee cup seen in every single shot of the film.


See those four dudes above…yeah, they’re all figments of one man’s broken psyche! Damn I can’t tell you what a huge fan of IDENTITY I happen to be. I saw this sucker in the theater with my sister and some friends on my 20th birthday, and if that wasn’t personalized enough, the fact the story is centered on a group of strangers who all share the same May 10th birthday, exactly one week after my very own, a double-dose of hair-stiffening chills were incurred. The great eye-darter extraordinaire, Pruitt Taylor Vince, plays a psycho killer up for release on the grounds of insanity, as his lawyers work to prove that ten different and totally autonomous identities live inside the mind of Malcolm Rivers. All this comes as a splendid shock in the end, as the entire movie plays out as a murder whodunit at a rainy roadside motel.


We all know Leo has a sweet-tooth for a coquettish waif or two, but damn, that’s one vapor thin birdie in his arms right there. Oh we jest, as poor Teddy Daniels in Scorsese’s diabolically diversionary SHUTTER ISLAND is wracked with all kinds of multiple identity issues. Seriously. With a title that rearranges to spell TRUTHS AND LIES, the brilliance of Scorsese here was to place us in the confused head-space of the unreliable narrator, Teddy, while he’s strung along and indulged in a grand role-playing therapy scheme by his head doctor (Ben Kingsley) while at an off-shore Boston prison for the criminally insane. Of course, most of the power of the film, and Leo’s performance, comes via the interpretation of the ending. Did Teddy really elect to stay in prison? Or was he really, truly insane?


Jesus Christ, Michael Shannon just looks like a twisted schizoid, no? Well, although the final shot of TAKE SHELTER vindicated his character as NOT being mentally unhinged, the paranoid arc his character suffers and the apocalyptic hallucinations he witnesses leading up to said revelation leave enough of a grey area to include here. That is, especially when considering a movie Shannon made five years prior, William Friedkin’s BUG, and how psychologically unfit his meth-headed character was in that. Straight-up, this Shannon dude has cornered the market on crazy! Thing is, he’s done so without actually portraying multiple personalities per se…his schizophrenic nature has more to do with the ambiguity, the paranoia, the psychological unraveling of a man’s mental state.


Speaking of Cronenberg, it would only take two years later for him to essay his own tangled web of scary schizophrenia in his underrated 2002 film SPIDER. The incomparable Ralph Fiennes plays Dennis Clegg, a halfway house tenant beset with severe psychological tumult for the past 20 years. As the film unspools, we’re given an extended glimpse into his fractured mind slipping away from reality. Nicknamed Spider by his mother as a boy, Clegg’s inability to heal begins to manifest the moniker physically. And it’s not just schizophrenia on display here. Apparently Clegg suffered a real life condition called Capgras Delusion, a syndrome that makes a person believe that people close to them have been replaced by identical-looking imposters. How’s that for a web of deceit!


I suppose you can throw Christian Bale’s role as THE MACHINIST in for good measure as well, but when it comes to characters that are so completely out of their gourd with self-delusion and seedy schizophrenic tendencies, come on, Patrick Bateman is the definitive AMERICAN PSYCHO. Remember, the end of the film reveals the entirety to be one long, violent, outrageously vented reverie experienced by our slick yuppie Wall Street banker himself, Mr. Bateman. Hell, at one point Bateman even feigns the identity of Paul Allen. So while there’s no real way of telling if Bateman was clinically schizoid or not, that his twisted fantasies were to assume the identity of a serial-killing maniac, he can’t be too far off. I do wonder though how far the material would have been taken if David Cronenberg directed, as originally intended.


A Top 10 list always feels most complete with the inclusion of the great Brian De Palma, and for his cheekily dark horror-comedy RAISING CAIN, the Hitchcock acolyte pays heartfelt homage to his muse via PSYCHO (and PEEPING TOM for that matter), but another top spot contender as well (proceed with caution to discover)! John Lithgow plays Carter Nix in the film, child psychologist and moonlighting murderer who can’t quite get a grip on his savagely sadistic alter ego. Or five! That’s right, Lithgow actually plays five different alters in the film. Five! Though far less bloodless than most De Palma outings, this is clearly the director poking fun at his own perceived image while still honoring his own personal favorites from the past. Lithgow’s multifaceted turn is both hilarious and horrifying, never failing to entertain!

Tags: Hollywood

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