Gialloween Day 4: Stagefright
Stage Fright is a fun movie. Director Michele Soavi's borrows elements from both the giallo and slasher genre to deliver a hybrid debut that is a fast, tight paced, feature that hits all the right spots. The film kicks off in a meta slasher/victim intro that reveals itself to be a scene from a play. A kickin’ sax number dominates the film as we are introduced to the characters in the film. The combination of “killer” / “victim” dancing in number boosts the camp factor to 11 and is a great way to set the mood for the rest of the film.
The film brings it down a notch after the masterful musical number, slowing down to go through the motions of introducing the theater troupe’s one dimensional characters that will be picked off later on in the film. Despite the predictable setup there are some nice spots of humor to keep the audience interests. Stylish lighting/shots backed by an eerie synth soundtrack also play a heavy role in keeping the film going as the initial paint by numbers setup progresses.
During this, we follow an actor of the play, Alicia, as she goes to a local mental hospital to get her injured ankle treated because “psychiatrists are doctors, right?”. Conveniently, a crazy psychopath escapes during Alicia’s visit and manages to hitch a ride back to the theater with them. Manufactured setup aside, the film jumps right back into its groove when the killer starts attacking all the remaining members of the theater.
Soavi’s experience as an assistant director to Lamberto Bava (son of genre godfather, Mario Bava), and Dario Argento, shines as he milks the single location of the theater for every drop. Every creative trick in the book is used in stylish fashion to keep the energy of the film alive. The deaths are just gory enough and inventive to hold up well today.
All in all the weird wtf ending adds little to the film, but does not take away from the great rideexperienced. I’d say Stage Fright is a fine introduction to Italian horror / giallo. Not the truest giallo in definition, but the fun packed into this film is more than enough to make a casual viewer dive into the rest of the genre, owl mask and all.