Stage Fright (1987) aka Stage Fright: Aquarius
The talentless cast of a play about a killer become trapped in a theatre with an escaped mass murderer.
Part tongue-in-cheek euro horror and part classy giallo, Soavi’s film is likely one of the more interesting horror films of the late 1980s.
The premise is straightforward, and the killer’s identity is no mystery. For such reasons it is perhaps easy to assume that this is simply “Halloween” (1978) set in a locked-down theatre…..but that would be very wrong because “Stage Fright” (1987) is not a clone movie at all.
By 80s standards, the film is actually quite gruesome. In particular, one of the faceless cast is drilled straight-through from behind a door and there is a full frontal decapitation. Technically speaking, the sharp camerawork is charmingly reminiscent of both Bava and Argento whilst Simon Boswell’s forceful score is a classic example of electronic orchestra utilised to the best effect.
What sticks in your mind is the finale. Our deranged killer assembles his bloodied victims on the soundstage and takes a seat amongst them amidst a hail of falling feathers. We see this from the POV of the ‘last-girl-standing’ who is cowering in the wings of the theatre. The killer is a little more interesting that you may expect; he plays games with our victims and dons an owl mask – a surprisingly creepy appearance I can tell you.
Personally, I’d select the ‘stand-out’ scene as the one where the killer bludgeons a young actress on stage in front of the entire drama troupe – initially they think he is the real actor but realise too late that he is indeed the escaped-murderer they think they have locked outside the theatre, as the virginal actress’s guts spill all over the wooden stage.
The final shot is a quirky take on the immortal slasher anti-hero whereas the opening act is pure tomfoolery with the audience’s sense of reality.
In one line, this is a gracefully choreographed and imaginative eulogy to the slasher genre. One of my favourite horror movies of the period.
NB: Be warned the dubbing is a bit below-par in this one folks.
Hotdog rating: 8.5/10