Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stage Fright (1987)


Director (and also actor) Michele Soavi is mostly famous for his complex and original horror films, but the movie that made him famous at first was Stage Fright, a slasher produced by Joe D'Amato and more or less a sub-classic in the genre. I will already confess now it's not my favourite Soavi film even if I agree it's a visually stunning piece of work and overall a damn fine slasher.

David Brandon plays a dictatorial director - much like Ian Charleson in Argento's Terror at the Opera (and I personally think the character of Brandon is based on Argento even in this movie) who's directing a controversial dance show/musical-something about a serial killer. At the same time, as one of the last rehearsals, a real serial killer breaks free from an asylum and finds his way to the theatre where he brutally starts killing everyone in sight! Yeah, something like that.  

My biggest criticism is actually about the script - which I understand is a sensitive subject, scripts to slasher films is never the best or the smartest, but still: a good slasher needs to keep up the pace and stay away from uninteresting plotlines and boring characters. I'm afraid to say that Stage Fright has a couple of these and spends way too much time with very flat personalities and not enough time killing them. It's also quite visible that Soavi is a bit unsure how to shoot some of the kills, because there's a lack of power in several of them - even if they are bloody and mostly very graphic. I blame it on the mistakes by a beginner.

But enough with the whining. Stage Fright manages to be a colourful and even an original - almost - slasher with one of the best setting ever in horror: a theatre. Soavi uses every space of this place, from the dressing rooms to the stage to the hidden compartments under the stage to the right above the roof, up by the ropes and lights. The characters are flat but easy to keep separate, with Giovanni Lombardo Radice in the only role that actually manages to seem a bit fun great send-up on effeminate gay dancers! It's almost too much, but still never breaks that border that makes it stereotypical. I love David Brandon also, awesome actor, but that's about it.

Set to 99 % at the theatre Soavi makes a few interesting nods to the American noirs of the fifties: the gangster-like producer (who begs for his life and offering the killer money in one of the best scenes) and the very over-the-top, mumbling and stumbling keystone cops who patrols the outside of the theatre - played by Soavi himself and Mickey Knox, who started his career in film-noirs in the forties before being forced to movie to Italy during the McCarthy era. It's lovely mix of characters from some really fucked-up old American musical and the ultra-violence of the Italians.

Like his mentor, Dario Argento, Soavi is clearly not interested in neither the characters or the story here (at least not the details) and works himself towards a visual orgasm during the 84 minutes the movie lasts, with a seemingly unbeatable killer. Even if this movie is terribly cool and awesome I'm even more happy that Soavi turned his filmmaking talent around and started to work with really good stories after this, because he's not Argenot - no one will ever reach up to those heights - and Soavi works better with his offbeat humour and low-key sadness that's always there somewhere. Not just a simple, primitive slasher.

I love Stage Fright - but not to any extreme degree. But it still beats most American slashers out there!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I'm afraid to say that Stage Fright has a couple of these and spends way too much time with very flat personalities and not enough time killing them."

I only heard good things about this movie, so your critiscm is important to me.



"Stage Fright manages to be a colourful and even an original - almost - slasher with one of the best setting ever in horror: a theatre."

It came out the same year as Angustia (1987), a horror set in a movietheater.


"It's lovely mix of characters from some really fucked-up old American musical and the ultra-violence of the Italians."

Sounds like a great mix to me.



"I love Stage Fright - but not to any extreme degree."

I haven´t seen it yet but I want to....great review ninja, thanks.

Megatron

Ninja Dixon said...

Well, I don't mean its the ONLY horror movie set in a theatre - but it's the best location for a horror movie :)

Gekko P. said...

I love Soavi, one of the most underrated Italian directors. At least in Italy. I totally agree with your review, this one don't even come close to the real good Soavi films, but still, yes, it has something powerful in it. Great work, Ninja!

Alex B. said...

That's a great review! I may not agree with every point you make, but it's a great piece nonetheless!

Ninja Dixon said...

Thanks both of you! And even more, thank you for reading my ramblings! :D

Anonymous said...

Ninja: I didn´t mean like that..but it´s weird coincidence.


Megatron