Deliria (Bloody Bird)(Sound Stage Massacre)(Stage Fright) Reviews
Stage Fright begins with one of the weirdest openings ever. Apparently, a murder has just taken place. Witnesses are panicking over the murder of a prostitute...but wait...suddenly n stranger in an owl mask has leaped onto the scene!
Well, it turns out that it was all an act. The witnesses and the owl-masked stranger were all merely thespians practicing for a Broadway-style musical based on the life of an anonymous serial killer.
The director of the musical, Peter (David Brandon, delivering a whacked out performance) is very frustrated at the moment for he feels that the cast and crew cannot get their act together for the production of a controversial new musical, "The Night Owl." While the director is grousing about the ineptitude of the whole production itself, the show's lead actress, Alicia (Barbara Cupisti) accidentally twisted her ankle. Now normally, if a person twisted his or her ankle, that person would immediately go see a physician. Well, for some nonsensical reason, Alicia's friend, wardrobe mistress Betty (Ulrike Schwerk) has decided that they ought to stop by...a local mental hospital in order for her to seek treatment. I am telling you, that makes absolutely no sense. I mean, if a person twists her ankle, why the hell would she end up consulting a psychiatrist? Anyway, back to the story-line...
Coincidentally, the mental hospital that Alicia and Betty are visiting is "home" to a very twisted man by the name of Irving Wallace (Clain Parker). Wallace happens to be an ex-actor turned homicidal maniac who has just murdered sixteen people! Eventually, Wallace furtively escapes from the hospital by hiding behind in the backseat of a car...and well, Wallace is ready to party all night long!
Meanwhile, Peter is even more enraged that Alicia has left without his permission. Once Alicia and Betty have returned from the mental institution though, Peter does not look any happier. However, that is the least of his problems. Minutes after Alicia returns, a horrendous crime has just been committed. The wardrobe mistress has been found... murdered! Can you guess who the culprit is?
Seeing that this idealistic director has no logical sense whatsoever, Peter decides to continue rehearsing anyway, for he believes that he can "cash in" on the murder of one of the production's own staff members. Peter eventually locks the doors and coerces the rest of the actors, actresses, and dancers to stay well into the night so that rehearsals may continue. Well, well, little do these people realize that in addition to locking themselves in, they have managed to lock in a "guest" as well. Looks like someone wants to join (actually, mutilate) the cast. I will give you a hint. He is a psycho killer who has a penchant for hacking up his hapless victims. He just escaped from the local mental hospital, and he is prepared to deliver a performance that will make anyone scream...
Stage Fright is a deliciously creepy descent into madness and paranoia. Rarely have I ever found myself to be so enthralled by a horror film of this design. Let me be honest, Stage Fright is simply a masterpiece waiting for recognition. The direction, the pulse-pounding musical score, the suspense, and the surrealism in this film are what make this motion picture a stand-out from the mundane. Director Michele Soavi ought to be proud for constructing a true scary movie which proves that with the right people and the right ideas, the stalk and slash genre will stay alive and well.
The problem with modern slasher flicks is that they use the same old killer-on-the-loose theme again and again. Yawn! However, Stage Fright miraculously revitalizes the stalk and slash concept, managing to inject energy into a worn-out premise. One of the best attributes of Stage Fright lies in the element of suspense. Granted, the first few minutes of Stage Fright are pretty tedious, but as soon as the killer joins the cast, an ominous feeling of fear will immediately grab you. Throughout the film, the tension never alleviates. One scene which really jolted me was when one of the actresses was screaming while the killer was trying to enter the dressing room she was trapped in. Director Soavi assuredly makes sure that the viewer never gets a chance to relax.
You are probably accustomed to seeing a certain hockey-masked psycho mutilating victims on screen. Well, in Stage Fright we have instead, a psychopath who wears an owl mask. Believe me, he is about as uncompassionate as his undead, hockey-masked counterpart. In Stage Fright one of the best visuals is the killer himself. Granted, an owl-masked killer may not seem frightening at first. However, in this movie, the viewer begins to realize that this owl-masked killer is absolutely remorseless and relentless. The more the viewer sees the owl-masked killer on screen, the more the viewer begins to associate the image of that owl mask with terror. As well, actor Clain Parker truly deserves applause for making his character so fiendish and terrifying, someone who does not give a damn about life. A solid horror movie needs an interesting villain to appeal to fans everywhere. Well, Clain Parker (as the sick and despicable Irving Wallace) fulfills that need here. I will say that he is more fascinating than the stock characters themselves! Put it this way, you will find yourself being driven mad like the poor souls themselves trapped in the theater once you discover that this killer may just be unstoppable. Apparently, this was Clain Parker's first and only known on-screen role and it's a shame because he did a really remarkable job here.
The atmosphere in Stage Fright is great! This movie captures the insanity of an interactive haunted house show. I liked the overall moodiness of this film, and how the rather haunting atmosphere makes the movie feel like a nightmare you are trying to wake up from. The use of the theater itself as the primary setting gives Stage Fright a frightening, claustrophobic aura. The wonderful musical hymn, combining classical music along with jazz and rock & roll tunes, has the power to send tingling shivers down your spine.
The film-making in this movie is remarkable. One of Soavi's most cogent film-making techniques is his use of contrasting light and dark colors to accentuate the atmosphere and suspense. Soavi's usage of bright colors produces a strong hypnotic effect. The cinematography is very good as well, giving this film a surreal vigor that is lacking in most horror movies. Soavi also makes sure to avoid predictability; he wants to genuinely make the audience leap out of their seats through the use of shocking surprises and revelations. (Though sometimes he stretches plausibility a bit.) Well, there are a few clichés in what Soavi uses (such as allowing the audience to see the killer's perspective), but amazingly, Soavi's tricks work. Overall, the atmosphere and visuals in this movie are awesome.
On a side note, we see a black cat named Lucifer featured in the film as a foreshadowing device. Lucifer is a not-so-subtle omen of the wicked danger that is about to befall our cast of characters.
Compared with most slasher flicks made in America, Stage Fright actually has style and class. I am not pulling your leg here; I am complimenting this film. Stage Fright is one of the rare slasher flicks that effectively utilizes genuine suspense and mood to engage the audience rather than annoy them. The two sins committed by most slasher flicks is that first, they are simply too disgusting, and second, they are not scary enough. Granted, Stage Fright has committed one of the sins mentioned above, but at least this movie is pretty damn scary. The third sin committed by most slasher flicks is that they rely on stupid plot twists to reveal the identity of the killer. Well, in Stage Fright, there is no need for such a convolution. The film does not rely on contrived plot twists to unmask the killer. Indeed, the simplistic plot (though admittedly not too original) works to the film's advantage. Instead of scratching our heads in confusion at a plot twist here, we are simply allowed the opportunity to experience terror unleashed.
One of the few shortcomings of Stage Fright is the acting. Though the performances weren't the best, they weren't too detrimental to the film itself. The performances in this film were mostly bland and nondescript, with characters that were really no more interesting than mere stereotypes. However, there were a few notable exceptions. David Brandon delivers a hammy performance as a harsh and partially deranged director. You see, in spite of the brutal murder which just took place, this guy still insists that the show must go on! Another commendable performance was by John Morghen as Brett, the actor who is obviously in the closet. Loyal Morghen fans probably remembered him as the guy who received a nasty drill to the head in Lucio Fulci's The Gates of Hell. Morghen's death scene is cool. It kind of reminded me of how Kenny died in South Park. Morghen here deserves merit for portraying one of those obnoxious snobs you love to hate. Barbara Cupisti was fine and likable enough as the main heroine of this film, but her character was never really well-developed. Director Michele Soavi himself has a small cameo in Stage Fright. Can you identify him?
If you are looking for gore, then congratulations, you have picked the right movie! However, let me just warn you that it takes a while before the blood starts flowing. Of course, once it's party time for the killer...mayhem ensues. One person gets impaled in the mouth by a pick-axe. Meanwhile, someone else is decapitated. Another character is repeatedly stabbed. Another performer gets cut in half courtesy of a chainsaw. Yet, this is scratching the surface! I do not want to spoil any more surprises for you, but the murders in this movie were very grotesque.
On the other hand, if you are looking for T&A, sorry guys, but there is only one very brief female nudity scene, and trust me, it is nothing to get excited over. I do not mind though, this film is so thoroughly suspenseful that I am too much engrossed in fear to be contemplating about gratuitous nudity. I mean, who needs gratuitous nudity when everything else in this movie is pulled off so well?
Although Stage Fright was one of the most impressive horror movies I have ever seen lately, I still could not ignore its weaknesses. First, the opening musical number was very cheesy, but maybe because it is dated. Actually, the beginning of the movie itself was kind of banal and lame-brained. Basically, we see a bunch of thespians ranting about their personal lives. It is SO cheesy and funny that it has brought back my high school memories as an actor in various performing arts productions. There are also a few trudging parts in this movie as well.
The characters in this movie were not really appealing. Personally, I saw most of the characters as mean-spirited jerks who were more self-conscious than sympathetic. Then again, it is a horror movie, right? So in essence, the villain is supposed to be cooler than the good guys, and true to this fact, I found myself sinfully rooting for the bad guy...
Ultimately, I found Stage Fright to be a thoroughly mesmerizing and horrific experience. This film does have its share of flaws, but these flaws do not distract from the overall intensity of this yet-to-be-worshipped motion picture. Michele Soavi has definitely proven himself to be a worthy director who knows how to strike trepidation into audiences' minds and hearts. I am looking forward to seeing some of Michele Soavi's future works.
Combining efficient direction with high level suspense and dazzling visuals, Stage Fright is a real fright show. The stalk and slash genre can learn a few tricks from this under-appreciated film. After watching this movie, you will then understand what it feels like to experience Stage Fright. Think of Stage Fright as an Alfred Hitchcock picture painted in blood red. This is a great film to watch alone...in the dark!
Some scenes had some decent gore effects but nothing amazing or super memorable.
I never cared about any of the characters so when they die you don't really care.