A group of stage actors lock themselves in the theater for a rehearsal of their upcoming musical production, unaware that an escaped psychopath has sneaked into the theater with them.
And with that, I’ve finally caught up to where I should be in this #31DaysOfHorror. Day 11 goes to one that I’ve been meaning to get at for awhile, 1987’s Stage Fright. Not to be confused with the 2014 Meatloaf vehicle of the same name by the way.
This is a fun little slasher that seems to openly embrace every single cliche and relish in exceptionally clunky dialogue. In fairness, the movie was filmed in Italy, and the writer is Italian, so there could be good reason. That said, the clunkiness and the cliche aspects do work pretty well, and make this a fun and entertaining watch.
The plot conveniences start right at the beginning, with two of the main characters accidentally bringing home a murderer after visiting a mental hospital for a sprained ankle, and from there you pretty much know what you’re in for. Director Michele Soavi (Cemetery Man) is very clear a lover of the work he does, and the work of many other schlock-masters in horror, and does his genre proud.
The actors are terrible, but in a way that makes many of them likable. You have the British artiste director, the money-obsessed producer, the fragile actress, and of course all kind of sex, nudity, and gore to fill out the rest of the run-time. I would break down some noteworthy performances, but if we’re being honest, the only person with a IMDB head shot is Barbara Cupisti, and all of the characters only have first names that I couldn’t get quite invested enough to remember, so here we are.
All of that aside, the reason to watch an 80’s slasher is the kills, that’s what we’re all here for, so let’s talk about them. The movie starts things off with a bang, when our owl headed killer takes a pick ax to one of the actresses mouth, but unfortunately that sets a bar that the rest of the film isn’t quite ready to maintain. With the exception of a hilarious drill-kill, and a pretty entertaining axe-attack, there’ really not much that makes this terribly exciting in the deaths department. There is a high body-count, so I suppose that could be all you need.
I did very much enjoy the design of the killer. The owl mask is really cool to look at, and manages to have moments of genuine menace. The actor under the mask does a solid job as well, and delivers a good scare near the end of the film that is the most effective in the entire movie. The owl head does make for some effective and interesting shots as well, so I can understand why fans of this movie would be drawn to it.
There also needs to be a huge shout out to the stunt man in the film, John Ukmar, he does a full-body burn that is really long and impressive. It is done in slow-motion, sure, but it feels way longer than it’s supposed to be in terms of health-and-safety regulations, so … well done Italy.
All in all, Stage Fright is a whole lot of fun, and I’d recommend it. There are other fabulous 80’s movies that you should get to first, but if you’ve been through all the classics then this is definitely a great one to put next on the list. Check it out.
MY RATING: ***