Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

STAGEFRIGHT (1987)

Key, cat and killer
STAGEFRIGHT (aka Bloody Bird/1987). Director: Michel Soavi.

A theatrical company is putting on a kind of avant garde (and rather awful) production led by the unpleasant director, Peter (David Brandon). Meanwhile a convenient escaped maniac hides in the trunk of the car belonging to one of the actors, and makes his way to the theater. For some strange reason the main door to the theater can be locked from the inside as well as the outside (!) -- this is apparently true with the other exits -- and the theatrical troupe find themselves locked in with the maniac and with no idea where the key to the front door could be. Said maniac, who wears an owl mask, proceeds, in Jason Voorhees fashion, to slaughter everyone in the theater. Beginning with knives, he works is way up to power drills, axes, chainsaws as the violence becomes increasingly graphic (with some sequences being much gorier than anything in the earlier Friday the 13th movies). Despite its stupid aspects, and director Soavi's general lack of style (he's no Dario Argento), StageFright presents a nightmarish situation that becomes increasingly tense and leads to a suspenseful business involving the "final girl," Alicia (Barbara Cupisti) and that key. The actors are good, especially Brandon and Cupisti, and the characters are, perhaps, slightly more dimensional than in similar films. Of course, there's little pity for the victims and no attempt at pathos, but that's not why people go to these movies. Possibly influential on later slasher films. One wishes there had been a real twist ending to this instead of the cliched one we're offered.

Verdict: Effective shock scenes and some ghoulishly macabre moments. **1/2.

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