Deadly Movies Reviews | ‘Stage Fright’ (1987)
It was a wet evening. In both the movie and my life. Time for me to rent an obscure 80s horror flick to whittle by the wet evening hours. ‘Stage Fright‘ is a movie I’ve had my eye on for a while. Another 80s situation slasher. If you love slasher movies then you thrive on the variables, because the actual plot, outcome, and characterisation vary little, if at all, between movies. Two of the most common variables in slasher movies are situation and killer, both of which became more inventive and convoluted as the 80s progressed. ‘Stage Fright‘ provided curious intrigue to both. Situation: A theatre production. Killer: An escaped asylum patient wearing a ginormous owl head. Yes owl head.
This is a Giallo movie. An Italian flick, made with Italian actors, set in America, dubbed with American voice over actors in an attempt to capitalise on the huge financial gains that could be made with a good horror theatre run in the US in the 70s and 80s. As with many Giallo movies the finer plot points, and character motivation, strain under the bizarreness which is often unexplainable and really not worth attempting to fathom. Stage Fright‘s plot is actually surprisingly conventional: Escaped crazy stalks a group of screaming annoying people who, for whatever reason, are isolated from any possibility of escape. In this case, trapped in a theatre during a thunder storm, one so loud no-one can hear the shrieks for help. And this is where the film hits highs of camp. Having your lead victims all playing actors means every stereotype of artsy-theatre types is on display: The antsy British director, the stuck up diva, the camp drama queens, and a man who looks incredibly like Sting (the singer not the wrestler).
For 60 minutes or so the film is very formulaic of the period. The only exception being incredible levels of camp. The killer however has a rather unique take on serial killer fashion coterie; rather than any old mask, he wears a giant owl head. It’s actually rather incredible, and unnervingly surreal. So let’s skip to the finale (the rest of the movie is standard stalk and slash, save for the giant owl head of course) where the film gets all ‘Black Swan‘ on our asses out of nowhere. Owl Head sits, centre stage, in a high-back chair stroking a black cat, surrounded by the corpses of his victims (Sting look alike et al) which he has assembled in various poses and positions of situ, while all around him feathers blow through the air and fall upon the blood soaked corpses. A truly unique, and strangely beautiful moment in slasher film history. The killer and the film itself have created a kind of macabre live performance piece that makes you forget the preceding 60 minutes and gaze on with pleasant surprise. This sequence lasts for quite a while, basking in its own wonderful bemusement. Then there’s a fairly standard final 5 minutes that follow to wrap the movie up in traditional slasher movie style. But it’s Owl Head’s one-night only performance piece that sticks in the memory and makes what could be forgettable generic Giallo into something that, for a slasher movie, is in danger of being almost profound.
NOTE: seriously how much does this guy look like Sting?
Image borrowed from TotallyLooksLike