Stage Fright / Deliria (1987)

4.5 out of 5

The gruesome murder of a cast member of a musical play coincides with the escape of an insane patient from a hospital. The director of the play decides to lock his cast and crew in the theater overnight as police search for the killer so they can continue to rehearse, but, unfortunately for them, instead of locking the killer out, they're now trapped in the building with him. The killer dons a prop owl mask and utilizes various tools, including a drill, chainsaw, and ax, to prey upon the distressed actors and director for seemingly no reason, and what ensues is a tense, eerie, and violent slasher in which there seems to be absolutely no hope for the protagonists.

Directed by Argento and D'Amato protege Michele Soavi of Cemetery Man fame and scripted by cult actor George Eastman, Stagefright is a beautifully filmed and well-executed slasher movie that stands on its own while following the simple formulas and conventions of typical American slashers. The killer's owl mask results in a very unique and bizarre look that is both unsettling and fascinating, and the high level of brutality will make even the most bloodthirsty of gorehounds stand up and applaud. The impressive musical score ranges from 80s synth to almost operatic numbers that compliment the visuals of the film quite well. Despite the film being limited to one location, Soavi explores every inch of the beautiful old-fashioned theater, allowing for both the breaking up of monotony and the killer to leave bodies scattered throughout. Stagefright certainly ranks as one of the best examples of a straightforward slasher film produced in Italy, if not, dare it be said, the absolute best.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics