‘Stagefright’ (1987) A Performance That Will Knock You Dead (Review)
Written by: Tara Mae Jackson
Directed by: Michele Soavi
Cast: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Giovanni Lombardo Radice
There are many Italian horror directors well known to any fan of the genre, the three biggest names of course being Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci. It is not easy to stand up against these greats and be recognized for your work, especially since there are still those rather apprehensive to check out foreign films for fear of bad dubbing or having to read subtitles. For those of us fans who venture out in the name of pure love of horror, and who look beyond the more mainstream titles most easily found we find a whole world of visual and often times visceral intrigue. Stagefright is one of those films that can easily fit the bill for both of these things.
Directed by Michele Soavi, who is probably best know for his films Cemetery Man and The Church, we are presented with a very visual and artistic experience while also getting a fix of fairly violent death scenes. At times one can get the impression of moving art, from the color palette and lighting used, to the posing of many of the actresses in certain eye catching scenes who’s expressions must convey the message, and not words. Yet the shear violence of the attacks is enough to firmly plant this on the shelves of gorehounds.
The combination, as one would expect of Argento’s protege, actually gives this presentation the ability to please a wider audience; and I would say those looking for something eye-catching or bloody, with a good dose of suspense, are not going to be disappointed!
The movie opens on a musical performance piece rehearsal who’s subject matter happens to center around a mass murderer. A psychopathic asylum escapee sees to it that life begins to imitate art as one by one the actors begin to fall victim to the depraved killer who has chosen to don the owl headed costume of the play’s own murderer. The director, seeing this as a massive selling point for his piece upon the initial death, decides to lock the actors in overnight, thus locking them in with the madman. No one is safe as the killer boldly attacks any and every one without mercy in scenes that are touted to be some of the most violent of the decade.
As Soavi’s first film, Stagefright will leave you applauding and crying for an encore. It delivers on many levels, and honestly feels like there’s a little something for just about any horror fan out there. The actors play their roles perfectly and often with a dramatic flair which you would expect to find among stage actors, catty and with obvious rivalries. The tension spikes at the right moments, and the music of composer Simon Boswell really reflects the tone throughout quite beautifully.
You could appreciate this film for some of the more artistic moments alone, one particular scene I visually enjoyed was one of the actresses filmed as she stood on the other side of a large aquarium as she watches a beautiful fish swim to the top. A small moment, but pleasing to the eye. That being said, there really is a lot that Michele Soavi is delivering with Stagefright, that can’t be ignored. Your eyes will be glued to the screen and you’ll find yourself on the edge of the seat, fully immersed in what the picture presents from beginning to end, scene to scene.
Overall, my advice is to pop some popcorn, grab a fellow horror fiend, or maybe just a jumpy girlfriend, and sit back and fully lose yourself in this great picture. Truly a much overlooked film that deserves a much wider audience as any true fan will tell you! I’m fairly certain you will not regret taking time on this Italian master blend of vision and violence.
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