Directed by Michele Soavi
Starring David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti and Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Released July 27, 1987
A musical production’s rehearsal is pushed back permanently as a psychopathic killer escapes from the loony bin down the road and sneaks into the theatre to take out the actors and production crew.
The film begins with a theatre crew working overtime in order to get ready for the show which opens in a week. The super jerk director is not satisfied with anything and one of the producers is hounding him to make sure the show opens on time. Alicia, one of the actors, hurts her ankle and sneaks out to see a doctor, the nearest medical centre just down the road but it’s a mental hospital. They seem to be housing an insane former actor named Irving Wallace, who became a serial murderer after going insane.
Wallace manages to easily break out of the hospital and hitches a ride in the back seat of Alicia’s car. Alicia is fired by the director for leaving but she finds the body of one of the crew members who was killed by Wallace. The police arrive and the director finds out that Wallace had escaped and decides to change part of the play and use the real events for publicity. It just so happens that the play is about a mass murderer so why not make it about Wallace?
The police allow the actors to keep working and leave a squad car behind in case Wallace decides to come back…and of course he does. Wallace locks the troupe inside the theatre and takes the owl costume of the play’s main character before hunting down the actors one by one who meet very grisly ends. This is a slasher flick, after all.
The film covers all the genre basics but delivers them with that distinct European flavour with the entire cast being dubbed, yay. The story is really out there because it’s based on a huge irony (a killer killing the cast of a show about a serial killer) so of course it’s ridiculous at times, but it’s certainly not boring. Yeah the killer is silly looking with the owl mask, it’s gigantic and full of feathers but he’s a vicious son of a bitch and this is where Italian-style slasher flicks really shine.
They had taken the American-style slasher film of the 80s and tossed in with some pretty wild and bloody kills (which North Americans didn’t get sometimes because the MPAA made sure these films were edited into oblivion so often.) The killer gets into the tool shed and takes his victims out with knives to stab, axes to hack with and a big ol’ chainsaw to dismember whoever is in front of him and the effects are pretty nasty, just the way I like em!
Stagefright delivers a wonderfully over-the-top effort that may not be the best introduction to the giallo genre, however the film contains many scenes that will entertain genre fans who should see it as a break from the slasher norm.
Story: 6 – As long as you don’t question the circumstances in how the events unfold, it’s a pretty crazy slasher flick that’s worth the 90 minutes.
Blood: 8 – The effects team pull off some neat but brutal kills. Axe wounds are just the beginning. Pickaxe in the mouth? Bleh. Drill through the chest? Yuck. Chainsaw to the gut? Gross.
Nudity: 3 – We get a couple of quick flashes but nothing to get excited over.
Overall: 7 – Just one of those movies to sit back and enjoy what it throws at you, no questions asked.
-The film is more well known outside North America as “Aquarius.”
-The actor under the owl mask was also the writer of the film’s screenplay, Luigi Montefiore.