When you’ve worked closely with the maestros of Italian cinema for years, it is safe to say you’ve learned from the best. Michele Soavi proved this, in 1987, with his directorial debut, StageFright.
A crew of performers are working on perfecting their stage show for an upcoming play. At the same time, a killer escapes from the local institution and finds his way to the place where the rehearsals are taking place. After murdering one stagehand, the killer gets locked inside with the rest of the crew… the perfect opportunity for taking the rest of them out, one by one.
Being a student of such greats as Dario Argento and Joe D’Amato really pays off. Michele Soavi’s StageFright is a perfect example of what Italian horror cinema did well in the 80’s — set the stage, no pun intended, for a suspenseful ride, with tons of great gore effects, an effective score/soundtrack, and great slasher fun.
With tons of films flooding the slasher sub-genre, it’s amazing to still find films that can utilize a type of mask that hasn’t been seen before. In fact, I thought I saw it all until my first viewing of this 1987 giallo masterpiece. Boy, was I wrong. I never thought I’d see a crazed murdered donning a large owl mask! It sounds rather silly in writing, but it is actually very effective in the setting given here. We begin the film knowing the identity and face of the killer, but that didn’t stop Soavi and writer Luigi Montefiori (credited as George Eastman), from following the famous slasher trend of covering the antagonist’s face throughout the rest of the film. What fun is it to see a killer’s face the entire time anyway, right!?
With a mixed cast of young performers, the acting in StageFright is similar to what you’d see in other horror fare of that time — no spectacular, breakthrough performances, but good enough to get you to the end of the film. Fans of other Italian horror flicks may recognize Giovanni Radice (credited as John Morghen) from his roles in House on the Edge of the Park and Cannibal Ferox.
Other long-time D’Amato and Argento collaborators also worked on the film in different capacities. Pietro Tenoglio and his make-up effects team did an awesome job, considering the low budget they had and the short amount of time allotted for filming. Hacked appendages, sliced-off heads, and chainsaw-induced eviscerations all looked great on screen, adding the most necessary element for any successful slasher… bloody carnage!
I reviewed another slasher with the same name, not too long ago. While that one was a horror musical hybrid, and this film not so much, music still played a great role in this one. Not only did the score and soundtrack do an amazing job of setting each scene up perfectly, but the in-movie music, used for the play, also had a huge impact as well. Soavi and his team really knew how to use all of their audiences’ senses to get the full and appropriate response.
If you are a giallo or slasher fan, you need to check this film out. Blue Underground has done an amazing job bringing new life to this film with a full 1080p High Definition restoration, along with a 5.1 DTS-HD audio track. You can purchase a copy of the film from their official website today!
I give this film 3.5 keys out of 5.