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Ghastly ReflectionsStage Fright (1987)
POSTED BY TERENCE NUZUM, May 7, 2015    Share

The Giallo. Stories of masked knife wielding maniacs intertwined with a mystery or police procedural plot has been around since Edgar Wallace and the Krimi films of Germany. But it was Italy's unique and visually flamboyant film take on the genre that made the archetype a household name in horror. By 1987 the Giallo was on its downward spiral. The grand old man of Giallo, Mario Bava, was dead and the savior Dario Argento was seriously succumbing to his own laziness and self indulgences. Out of this depression came a breath of fresh air, Stage Fright. Michelle Soavi's Stage Fright brought life back into Italian horror even if for just a few years. Soavi had already been an actor in Fulci's City of the Living Dead, and was currently working as an assitant director for Joe D'Amato and Argento, when he was finally offered a chance to direct a film of his own.

Stage Fright tells the simple tale of an escaped lunatic who breaks into a theatre while an acting troupe is preparing for a stage musical. The madman dons an owl mask and carnage ensues. The plot is completely unoriginal and it is Soavi's visual touches and flourishes that make the film a slight classic. For one, the deaths are inventive. One in particular involves a power drill through a door and through the victim on the other side. Then there is the main set piece. After all the victims are killed, the owl-masked killer props them up on stage in various poses, before sitting down with them like he has done a hard days work. The image of bodies and decapitated heads propped up in living positions, juxtaposed with the surrealism of a man with a giant owl head, is an unforgettable image that you will not shake till days later. Hypnotic is the best way to describe the scene. The ending is also a weird surrealistic device that does and doesn't quite work.

Stage Fright isn't quite the classic that Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) or Blood and Black Lace are, but it easily breathed new life into a genre that was dying. Soavi's The Church followed soon after, as did countless Lamberto Bava films. The well soon ran dry and Soavi took the smart route and had enough talent to back out and return to cinematography and second unit for Terry Gilliam, but not before he left us with one last horror gem, Dellamore Dellamorte (Cemetary Man) in 1994. Stage Fright combined the Italian Gaillo with the American slasher film and if anything it gave us one of the genres brightest stars in Michele Soavi.

"Ghastly Reflections" is ©2015 by Terence Nuzum. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2015 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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