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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Stage Fright (1987)




The Slasher movie marathon continues with Stage Fright. It is one of the strangest, yet compelling movies from the genre. That might be because it is an Italian production trying to capture the style of an American slasher movie with their own European sensibilities. Let me see if I can explain.

Things start off with a woman walking down the street. She gets harassed from a man off screen and basically gives him the brush off. While stopping in front of a dark alley she is grabbed by a killer. Then everyone breaks out into dance! Right I know it’s weird. Though seconds later it all makes sense when we realize it was just a rehearsal for a play. Here we are introduced to the characters and find out that one of the ladies has hurt her foot. She sneaks off to see a doctor but while at the hospital unknowingly picks up an escaped mental patient.

So, the setup for the rest of the movie is that the director locks them all in so they can spend the night getting ready for the opening of the show. The actual killer is also locked in with them and grabs the costume of the play’s killer from the wardrobe room. Basically, a black suit and giant owl’s head mask. The first kill after the doors are locked is right on stage while everyone thinks it’s just more rehearsing. From that point forward it is on like Donkey Kong! Sorry always wanted to use that in a review…

The things that I expect in a slasher movie. An interesting killer, a body count, some way to trap the victims with the killer, and the “oh we thought the killer was dead but he isn’t…yet” ending. Stage Fright has all of these. That damn owl mask is one of the most unique looks to any slasher movie killer that I’ve ever seen. While not practical it certainly stands out as memorable. It is also so large that it completely hides the killer’s eyes and head. You never know where he is looking. The body count is very nice at nine and includes some good gore. I’ll go into better detail on the kills later. The director locking his actors up in the old theater is one of the best moves that I’ve seen to trap the victims with the killer. Of course, the first person to go is the actress that was told to hide the key. Finally, they take the ending further than any other slasher I’ve seen. This killer keeps coming back until he doesn’t. It takes a hell of a lot to do him in.

The killer looks cool!
Now onto the Italian touches to the movie that I wouldn’t have expected. All of our victims are theater people. There are a lot of tights, really bad knock off ‘80s synth music, and choreography from what I guess was a thirteen-year-old girl who watched some Miami Vice episodes. It is cheesy as hell, but entertaining. Also after a couple of people die the survivors head to the workshop to grab tools to arm themselves up. And then they go looking for the killer to murder him before he murders them. They seriously go out to kick his ass. Never saw that coming. Toss in the bad dubbing and you get that distinct shot by Italians feel that can’t be imitated.

Time to discuss the gore. The killer is a normal looking guy so they don’t have anything to design there. But we do get some decent kills. There are several stabbings throughout, as well as a nice drill thru the door and actor that stands out. We get not one, but two chainsaw kills that have innards all over the place. An arm and a head get lopped off and go flying. The filmmakers knew the fans like some gore and they provided buckets of it.

There are a lot of slasher movie fans that don’t like Italian horror. I completely understand that because they have their own weird vibe. Stage Fright is certainly sporting those quirks but is also a decent slasher movie that might be an excellent gateway for those looking to dip their toes into the Italian horror scene.


© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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