Stagefright (1987)

Director: Michele Soavi

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Certification: 18

Starring: Barbara Cupisti, David Brandon, Mary Sellers, Robert Gligorov, Jo Ann Smith, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Martin Philips, Piero Vida, Loedana Parrella, Ulrike Schwerk, James Sampson, Clain Parker

For his narrative-feature debut as a director, Michele Soavi went operatic in the best ways with this grisly slasher flick. It opens on the sight of a cat walking down the street, passing a smoking woman that suddenly gets grabbed from the shadows by a masked killer. Upon discovering her body, the street residents burst into a dance number accompanied by a saxophone playing angel.

As the camera moves out, it becomes clear the setting is a shoddy-looking stage musical where rehearsals are underway. Watching the setting is a berating director, desperate to make something sensational while clashing with a producer intent on protecting his investment. The infighting will become the last of the casts worries, as they become locked within the isolated theatre with an escaped serial killer.

Prior to the blood-soaked ferocity, the time is taken to showcase the connections between these performers sharing the stage. Be they clashing over a role, sharing jokes, or helping with hospital appointments, their relationships are brought alive thanks to the performances which tower above underwritten roles and distracting dubbing. The most impactful character is Peter, the director memorably played by David Brandon. His desire to make a hit comes from both passion and desperation, so the discovery of a dead body causes him jump at the chance to use the tragedy for free publicity.

As the owl-masked murderer stalks the enclosed setting, the eerie atmosphere Soavi has crafted offers much fun as audiences query where the killer will strike next. The excellent lighting and score add to the over-the-top kills, making an artful brutality this film traffics in up to the tense finale. Interjecting throughout this is a humorous gag which gets run into the ground, as cops converse in their car while blissfully unaware of the carnage taking place inside. Despite this dud note, it doesn't hamper this extravagantly theatrical slasher which offers much fun amidst grisly kills.

Stagefright is now available on Blu-Ray and Digital on Demand from Shameless Films. It can be ordered from the link here.