Deliria, StageFright, StageFright: Aquarius (1987)
Directed by: Michele Soavi
Written by: George Eastman, Sheila Goldberg
Starring: Barbara Cupisti, Clain Parker, David Brandon, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Mary Sellers
Directed by Michele Soavi
On limited edition DVD/Blu-Ray from Amazon
A troupe of dancers rehearsing for a new musical play, The Night Owl, are shocked to the core when their wardrobe mistress meets a grisly end in the parking lot. The play director, wishing to capitalise on the notoriety and attention the play will get because of the murder, decides to continue rehearsals throughout the night, locking his dancers inside the old theatre. Despite some outrage from a few of the dancers, the show goes on but soon the group realise that they may not be alone in the theatre – that the killer is inside the theatre with them!
From director Michele Soavi, who is well known for The Sect, The Church and Cemetary Man, giallo slasher STAGEFRIGHT has been given a Blu-Ray makeover from distributor Exposure Cinema in the UK. Limited to just 3000 copies, the dual format edition presents the movie fully uncut and colour corrected for a clear, pleasing visual as we’ve come to expect on the Blu-Ray format. The sound is extremely strong too, in both clarity and volume. The release comes with an abundance of extras that will please any slasher and film fan. Running at 161 minutes altogether, the extras include a trailer, gallery and a great comparison feature showing the cut version scenes alongside this release’s uncut scenes in a splitscreen display. There’s also amazing and insightful interviews with the cast, the director, Giovanni Lombardo Radice (who played Brett), the producer Joe D’Amato, superfan and FrightFest organiser Alan Jones and a great little documentary about VHS and those who still collect and watch the format to this very day. That’s not all! The dual format release comes packaged with a Video Chillers collectors booklet that features articles, stills and trivia on the overlooked slashers and late giallo movies. This really is a fine release from Exposure Cinema and horror fans will no doubt be clambering over each other to get their mitts on it due to the limited number in circulation.
I don’t know what it is about Italian cinema from the 70’s and 80’s, particularly giallo films, but they have a certain charm: a raw, B-movie-esque quality that if replicated in modern day wouldn’t work quite as well. STAGEFRIGHT is essentially a slasher with giallo aspects and although it has a simple plot, which is pretty guessable early on in how it will pan out, it’s tremendous fun to watch. Other than the character of Alicia (Barbara Cupisti), not much character building is done but the film doesn’t need it as it actually builds impressions from the characters on the way they interact with others. It’s clear that there’s a relationship between Sybil (Jo Ann Smith) and Danny (Robert Gligorov), whilst gay Brett (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) and Laurel (Mary Sellers) share a bitchy like best-friend love for one another. Peter (David Brandon) is their stern, self-centred director who won’t let anyone, not even the financial backers, come between him and his artist vision for the play. Once Betty (Ulrike Schwerk) the wardrobe mistress is found brutally murdered, his obsession for potential ratings and interest the play will garner because of this goes through the roof but there’s a price for his selfish plans: a price that the entire theatre production crew will have to pay.
For those who’re into the brutal kills that 80’s slashers usually bring, you will not be disappointed. Thanks to this uncut version, we get to see a variety of grisly, bloody deaths, many of which seem to be inspired or are at least a homage to those used in iconic horror films of the past include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Psycho. The director, Michele Soavi, seems to enjoy creating a visual feast for the viewer to lap up and we do so with utter glee. Though he doesn’t stop with the impressive kills. Even the presentation of certain scenes, particularly one at the end with the use of feathers, is enough to stir uneasiness inside the viewer.
With enthusiastic performances from the cast, STAGEFRIGHT is an entertaining slasher to behold. Everything about it feels right and whilst it has a bloodthirsty edge, the film also works well as a survival thriller. The singular location of the theatre allows the viewer to get inside the room with the characters and feel like they too are trapped in there with them.
Though the film was made in the late 80’s, STAGEFRIGHT is still as entertaining to this very day and doesn’t feel at all dated in shock scares or storyline. Horror fans, particularly of the slasher and giallo genre, need to check this film out if they haven’t done already. One of the true 80’s classics.
You can also read Ross’ review of StageFright from his Slasherthon series.