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(USA/UK: StageFright: Aquarius)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Dolby Stereo
A group of actors become trapped in a theatre with a rampaging maniac who has just escaped from the nearby psychiatric clinic...
DELIRIA not only marked the directorial debut of Euro-cult favorite Michele Soavi (billed here as 'Michael' Soavi), it also marked a reunion of several prominent figures from the heyday of Italian exploitation. Produced by renowned sleaze merchant Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massaccesi - "Buio Omega", "Emanuelle in America") and written by splatter stalwart George Eastman (Luigi Montefiore - RABID DOGS, ABSURD), and co-starring John Morghen (Giovanni Lombardo Radice - CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD), this deceptively modest shocker attempts to subvert many of the clichés associated with 'traditional' slasher movies, and does it with style and grace. Viewers weaned on a diet of bland Hollywood 'horrors' may not succumb immediately to the film's wayward plot developments (including the central device of an off-off-Broadway stage musical which celebrates the very same serial killer who winds up massacring most of the cast!), but once the basic premise has been established, the narrative assumes a near-demonic life of its own.
Beginning with a frankly horrific sequence in which the masked killer is mistaken for an actor during rehearsals and encouraged to 'kill' a female co-star (only to commit the bloody deed for real!), Soavi's direction is razor-sharp and visually appealing. The murders are outlandish and gruesome, though also tragic in places (watch out for a shower sequence which operates both as a suspense set-piece and as a vivid demonstration of human cruelty), and Eastman's clever screenplay strips the characters down to their emotional core, revealing a gamut of fears and prejudices which leave many of them vulnerable to the killer's predations. The climactic sequence - in which a frightened young actress must retrieve an all-important key from its hiding place within inches of the killer's feet - is ghastly, beautiful and terrifying, all at the same time. Outside of these major set-pieces, Soavi's relative inexperience is betrayed by a couple of ragged camera movements and some odd editing choices, while the performances are compromised by flat post-sync dubbing. But overall, the movie is a triumph, one which plays Soavi's mentor Dario Argento at his own game and succeeds beyond all expectations.
In Michele Soavi's classy 80s slasher Stagefright, a troupe of
struggling actors are trapped overnight in a theatre; one by one they
are bumped off by an escaped mental patient sporting an owl mask and
wielding a nifty selection of sharp implements and power tools.
Soavi gives us a brilliantly tense movie that makes maximum use of its locale, using lighting, theatre sets and shadowy areas to great effect. There are plenty of creepy moments, some genuine scares and loads of nice bloody FX for the gore-hounds. Fans of Italian horror might notice some similarities in style between this movie and some of Dario Argento's giallo films; this should come as no surprise, since Soavi worked as an assistant to Argento, and obviously learnt a thing or two about shooting a great murder scene. He even uses synth maestro Simon Boswell, who worked on Argento's Phenomena, to create the atmospheric score.
There are one or two moments which stop this film from being perfect (in particular, an unnecessary prologue with a 'shock' ending), but Stagefight still manages to impress with its splattery death scenes and stylish direction.
Michele Soavi's debute film was this wonderful Italian horror film
that's simply one of the best slasher films ever made!
Cast and crew of a stage production find themselves locked inside their theater with an escaped homicidal maniac!
Stylish and colorful direction highlight this excellent giallo film. Soavi makes the most of his clever cinematic techniques with inventive camera work and nice set pieces. Soavi has obviously taken a page from director Dario Argento in his artsy directorial style. He turns the dank catacombs of the theater into a dark, shadowy playground for our killer, who wears a truly spooky owl's head. Soavi sets up an atmosphere of great tension, setting the occurrences during a thunderstorm, using great re-occurring imagery and making even the huge theater a claustrophobic trap for our cast. There's some great moments of smart suspense as well, like the sequence with Alicia under the stage.
Being a giallo film, there's a lot of bloody scenery to be had. There's plenty of vicious, memorable murder sequences that will please any gore-hound to no end!
The cast is pretty good, even if they are dubbed something fierce. Barbara Cupisti is fetching as the films leading lady. The film boasts a weird and beautiful rock score that has a awesome contrast with the films visuals.
All in all, Stage Fright aka Deliria is a top-notch film that's a true must-see for horror fans everywhere!
*** 1/2 out of ****
I recently acquired Italian horror director Michele Soavis Cemetery Man
which was released recently for the first time on DVD. I had seen it
before, but somehow now it became one of my favorite horror films. It
has a style, beauty and grace that many horror films seem to miss
nowadays. So naturally I set my eyes on seeing all of Michele Soavis
horror films. I had already seen two of them The Church and Cemetery
Man, and The Sect isn't out on DVD so I decided to see his only other
movie on DVD which is Stagefright. This was Michele Soavis directorial
debut, so I didn't really know what to expect. A flawed film made by an
at the time rookie? A promising film with glimpses of greatness here
The story is about this group of actors that are putting up a play. They have very little time to practice some of the dance moves and songs so they are all under a lot of pressure. A psycho killer finds his way to the theater and locks everybody inside with absolutely no way out. Then he begins to systematically kill all the actors on the play in some really gruesome ways.
Well its no secret that Soavi was Argentos pupil and I think that out of all of Soavis horror films that I have seen Stagefright is the one in which this is most evident. There's the killers point of view, some strange and interesting camera angles and even an animal themed killer. But thats not a bad thing in my book because eventually Soavi found his own voice and style as evidenced by his last horror film Cemetery Man. Still, Stagefright has a great style and look. What I love the most about Soavis films is that they deal with all these horrible killings, yet the film has a class and a finesse about it that kind of elevates the sleaziness of the slasher genre to a high that it rarely reaches.
Don't get me wrong here, this movie may be artsy and classy, but its still very very much a slasher film. There's some truly brutal deaths here! After the movie sets up its premise the ball gets rolling really fast! Thats one of the things I liked the most about this movie it had a fast pace and wasn't boring in the least! Once the killer puts on that cool as hell Owls Head mask on his noggin things get really gory and interesting. From people being cut in half with chainsaws (great scene man!) to some cool decapitations this movie had me cheering for more! So slasher fans and fiends, you wont be disappointed!
Another excellent thing about this movie was that it wasn't an incoherent mess. I've seen a lot of Lucio Fulci films, a lot of Dario Argento films and a few other Italian directors and they all suffer from the same illness. They cant seem to bring together a story and tell it in a coherent understandable fashion. Not so with Soavis Stagefright. I was surprised at how smoothly the story flowed and I was surprised that I was actually understanding it without any extreme effort. In a sense I would say that Soavi took everything that Argento and Fulci did wrong and did it right. He learned from their mistakes and therefore he is a better filmmaker for it. He is the next step in the evolutionary ladder as far as Italian Horror goes. This might also be why Soavi is heralded as the savior of Italian Horror by many a horror connoisseurs.
So in conclusion, Stagefright is a solidly well directed slasher. One that showed promise for what is one of horrordoms best directors,even though his body of work is comprised of only four movies. I hope Soavi wakes up from that dream soon and delivers us with something as good or better then what he has already done. Soavi you the man! Rating: 5 out of 5
Four films might be too little to judge, but I think Michele Soavi is the best Italian horror director since Mario Bava. Regarding several aspects, his visions and attitude surpass those of praised directors like Lamberto Bava, Umberto Lenzi and even Dario Argento. Stagefright has got a simple plot (much simpler that those in Soavi's later movies) but that makes it all the more accessible and enjoyable. The plot involves an escaped lunatic who stumbles into a theater where a group is rehearsing an artistic play. The mentally weak man, unable to separate reality from his own demented imagination, considers himself to be at home and violently begins to annihilate cast and crew. Even though the premise is perfect for sinking low in gore slashing, Soavi prefers to focus on creating tense situations and making you feel one with the characters and as a result of this petrified as well. The stylishly filmed sets and efficient scenery makes it feel like you're watching a more sophisticated version of Bava's "Demons". This is exactly what makes him such a brilliant director! Give him little and he still manages to deliver a fully equipped horror film. Call me nuts, but I think there are directors who actually have the talent to make violence look like art and Soavi definitely is one of them. Stagefright has a terrific musical score and a few familiar faces in the cast. Most memorable appearance unquestionably is made by Giovanni Lombardo Radice. This Italian cult actor appears in multiple gore highlights and practically always comes to a horrible end Stagefright comes with the highest possible recommendation. In case you dug this film, you're ready for Soavi's "the Sect" and "Dellamorte Dellamore".
Stagefright is the horror movie I remember most during my adolescent
years, and it freaked me out!!!
There is an extremely high level of violence with Soavi showing in graphic detail power drills being shoved through bodies, severed torsos and the like - all of which initially serves to give the impression that Soavi is a director without any style, just a penchant for ultra-violent dispatch. However there are also a number of occasions where Soavi demonstrates considerably more style - particularly in moments that he blends the suspense with the illusion of the stage, like one sequence where the director directs the killer in the play how to kill an actress unaware that he is directing the killer who really is killing the actress. And once Soavi has gotten his string of victims out of the way he develops the film into a vividly drawn-out series of suspense sequences - in one scene the heroine is hiding in a shower cubicle as a friend is stabbed by the killer in the adjoining cubicle and she must do all she can to stop her friend crying out for help and giving her presence away; or where a cat trips a fan blowing away a pile of feathers revealing the key embedded in the cracks of the stage and the heroine's suspenseful crawl under the stage to try and get it while the killer sits directly above.
Go buy a tub of popcorn and a pepsi, this movie is great.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spoilers I'm not a big fan of the slasher sub-genre; there's too many
samey films clogging up the genre and seeing a man with a knife hacking
topless babes to bits can be a bit tiresome after a while, believe it
or not. This one, however, is a cut above (no pun intended) the
majority of other slashers.
Stagefright features an abundance of overly gory and creative death scenes. This, of course, is no bad thing. No bad thing at all. The film's first death scene sees the wardrobe assistant take a pick axe in the face, and that death scene alone beats any of the rather dull methods of death featured in other 80's slashers such as Friday the 13th and The Burning single handed; and it gets better than that...one actress is stabbed to death in front of her director and the rest of the cast; power drills, chainsaws, axes and fire also feature in the movie's vast weapon repertoire. On the subject of the chainsaw; it surely has to be the most under-utilised weapon in horror film history. The tool just cries out to be used to maul and saw up victims, and yet it hasn't had a great deal of screen time over the years considering it's potential. This movie, however, has a lovely chainsaw section which sees limbs get lopped, bodies carved up and an incredible death scene in which the victim has the lower half of her body removed while being rescued from falling down a trapdoor.
This film's main downfall according to some people will be it's characters, script and acting. The characters are paper thin, the script, at times, is badly written (although not throughout) and the acting is wooden to say the least. However, as one doesn't go into an 80's slasher movie expecting Oscar winning performances, Oscar winning scriptwriting and great characters; one can forgive these things. What this movie does have lots of though, is style and atmosphere. It's easy to see the influence that master director Dario Argento has had on his understudy Michele Soavi. Soavi, who would later go on to direct his masterpiece, "Dellamorte Dellamore", piles on the style in this movie. The style is very reminiscent of the sublime, 'Opera', actually, which also came out in the great year that was 1987. One scene in particular, involving the main character hiding out in the shower while one of her co-stars is killed in the next booth is very Opera-esque indeed. The creepy atmosphere in the movie comes mostly as a result of the claustrophobic setting, which is made more claustrophobic when you consider the fact that the characters are locked in with the madman. The creepy atmosphere comes into play again towards the end of the movie when the 'slasher trademark' victim has her final duel with the killer; Soavi is able to build up tension through a series of scenes, including one very suspenseful sequence in particular which the key to building is wrenched out of the stage floorboards in front of the killer. The suspense in the build up the killer's downfall is not wasted, as, unlike so many other films, Soavi is able to build the movie up to a satisfying and exciting conclusion.
Stagefright is an underrated gem, and more than deserves the praise that lesser entries in the slasher sub genre, such as Friday the 13th receive. A creepy exhibition of atmosphere and creative gore; Stagefright comes with the highest recommendation from me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As an horror fan knows, movies that truly creep you out and make you
tense are far too few in existence. This film stands as one of the
greatest slasher films made.
Soavi doesn't use the cheap tricks(except the black cat jump out in the beginning, but I swear that was put in as a joke) to gain scares, he uses atmosphere and a more human killer. The sets used in this film made me giddy when scenes would start. When our heroine awakens at the end and walks out to look upon an entirely black and blue set, knowing the killer is hidden somewhere in the theatre, I just cringed with happiness and fear. Soavi doesn't waste our time in this one either, he doesn't worry about creating a mystery of the killers identity, we learn very early on much like we did in "Halloween" and then we start the killings. What I find so great about the film, is that he doesn't try the fear involving jump outs, he creates tension. That is the reason I love this film so much, and why "Halloween" also stands as one of my top slasher flicks. He creates situations that you can imagine yourself being in, and that is where the constant fear comes from. Things like the guy left behind in the freshly pitch black theatre collecting his money as the rest of the group runs off without him. Along with that we have the girl who locks herself in a dressing closet to avoid the killer in the costume room. My favorite scene though would have to be after the heroine wakes up, she finds her way to the back and walks down a black and dimly lit very LONG hallway with doors on either side and the camera pans with her, following each step, this entire scene had my stomach jumping with delight. The killer is also human in this which is a relief. He is not all knowing, with each person he kills it is entirely believable that anyone could have found them there. Whether it be from the noise they made, or the fact that he was watching them all along, you won't see anyone disappear and hide only to have the killer somehow be directly behind them. I am a sucker for atmosphere movies and more realistic situations, if you like either, check this out :)
But you must give negative credit where it is due also, so here is some of that. It seems as if with each point we reached that needed to tell a plot point in order to advance the story, the plot points just don't make sense. In the beginning when the two girls decide that a minor sprained ankle is worth sneaking out to a mental institute to get it looked at just seemed like a very rushed and a kind of "who cares, it works" idea. The director telling the girl to hide the keys was also very stupid to me, why didn't he just hide them himself? Is not like he would have been tempted to leave. And the last I can think of right now, when our heroine is knocked out(an important point) it is done so in an exceptionally lame, and in a manner that makes no sense at all. There are a few more scenes that just make you say "What? why??", but I guess it does work, because it is minor in comparison to the rest of the film.
The flick deals with a theatre of death in which a maniacal serial
killer attempts to cover his trail by joining the cast (David Brandon ,
Barbara Cupisti , Mary Sellers , among others) of a play about mass
murder . There happens several bloody murders and gruesome executions .
A troupe of struggling cast members is rehearsing for a small-town
production of a play. Everything seems to be as it should until one of
the stage actors appears dead. In a panic, the others attempt to get
out, only to find they are now locked in the theater with the
murderous. As the other players soon have more to worry about than
remembering their lines .
Michele Soavi's first great success is compellingly directed with startling visual content . This frightening movie is plenty of thrills, chills, high body-count and glimmer color in lurid pastel with phenomenal results . This is a classic slasher where the intrigue, tension, suspense appear threatening and lurking in every room, corridors and stage interior and exterior . Interesting screenplay was written by 'Lew Cooper', one of numerous pseudonyms that writer/actor George Eastman uses , in actuality Eastman's real name is Luigi Montefiore . The thrilling of the story is to find out which one of them committed the murder, and who will get out alive.
The movie belongs to Italian Giallo genre , Mario Bava (¨Planet of vampires¨, ¨House of exorcism¨) along with Riccardo Freda (¨Secret of Dr. Hitchcock¨ , ¨Il Vampiri¨) are the fundamental creators . These Giallo movies are characterized by usual zooms and utilization of images-shock with magenta shades of ochre and overblown use of color in shining red blood , translucently pale turquoises and deep orange-red . Later on , there appears Dario Argento (¨Deep red¨, ¨Suspiria¨,¨Inferno¨), another essential filmmaker of classic Latino terror films and finally Michele Soavi . Soavi was given a chance as an assistant director by director Aristide Massaccesi (aka: Joe D'Amato). In their first film, Soavi acted in an uncredited part, and was the assistant director. Over four more films with Massaccesi, Soavi served as a bit part actor, screenwriter and personal assistant . As Soavi, wanting to get on his own, turned to his previous mentor Aristide Massaccesi to show off his work where the filmmaker offered Soavi a chance to direct his first movie, and finally made this ¨Aquarius¨ or ¨Stagefright¨(1987) , produced by the prolific Joe D'Amato , a typical low-grade terror , even his his second big film project called La Chiesa (1988) had a budget three to four times the budget of ¨Stagefright¨ , with Argento as the producer . Although ¨Aquarius¨ was a box-office flop in Italy, it was a success abroad . Despite the low budget , equivalent to under $1 million U.S. dollars, and low-production values, the picture turns out to be a passable slasher , including some exciting surprises . This genuinely mysterious story is well photographed by Tafuri, though being necessary a right remastering . Furthermore , includes a poor editing involving the soundtrack by means of synthesizer , however resulting to be sometimes atmospheric and frightening musical score composed by Simon Boswell, among others .
The motion picture was well directed by Michael Soavi , remembered to this day as one of the many masters of Italian Horror cinema as a director, screenwriter, actor, and assistant director. Soavi first met writer/director Dario Argento in 1979 where the director took Soavi under his wing after learning of their same tastes with film making. Argento made Soavi the second assistant director for the movie Tenebre (1982) with Lamberto Bava as the first assistant director. Pleased with his work, Bava hired Soavi as his assistant director for the mystery-thriller A Blade in the Dark (1983) with Soavi in a supporting role. Afterwards, Argento brought back Soavi to work as his assistant director in Phenomena (1985) with Soavi acting in a small role. Argento rewarded Soavi by giving him his first assignment as director of a music video "The Valley" featuring music by Bill Wyman for the movie Phenomena, plus as director for a documentary on Argento's films. Soavi worked again for Lamberto Bava as assistant director in Demoni (1985) in which Soavi also appeared. Soavi began to look elsewhere for work where he was hired as an assistant director and cameraman for British actor/director Terry Gilliam with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). With new skills, Soavi returned to Argento as a supervisor for special effects in Ópera (1987) where Argento offered him to direct another film, a horror flick titled La Chiesa (1988) and filmed on location in Budapest . The international success of The Church inspired Soavi to direct another film, The Sect (1990). Soavi worked on a number of screenplays, and directed the horror-comedy Cemetery Man (1994) which was a huge hit in the USA. Afterwards, Soavi took a break from working to spend time with his wife and family. Recently, he returned to filmmaking with two made-for-Italian-TV dramas . Aquarius rating : Good, this is an imaginative and acceptable picture in which the camera stalks in sinister style throughout a story with magnificent visual skills.
A group of actors is locked inside a theater after one of their crew
members is killed. Unknown to them, the killer is inside the building
and the first one to die has the only key outside hidden. This could be
their last night alive.
Michele Soavi has made one of the greatest horror films of all time with "Dellamorte Dellamore", and this one -- his first feature -- is not far behind. The acting is superb, the directing keen, and while the slasher genre is riddled with plenty of bland entries, particularly by the time this came out, Soavi keeps it fresh and new here. I have the utmost respect for his work, and the slasher genre in general... could this be the ultimate slasher? Italian horror critic Jim Harper calls this film "a well-constructed and visually impressive film that stands out as one of the highlights of Italian horror in the late 1980s." I could not agree more. Horror, and Italian horror specifically, has more misses than hits... and by the end of the 1980s was a dying subgenre. Soavi kept the fire alive, at least for a few more years than it would have survived on its own (Argento, as great as he his, cannot bear the entire burden of Italian cinema alone). The "visually impressive" part is quite true, as Soavi uses colors to his advantage throughout this one... a technique he likely picked up from Argento.
Fans will recognize actor John Morghen, whom Harper calls "waspish", the darling of the Italian horror world. Sadly, unlike past performances, Morghen dies off relatively early in the film and is not given the on-screen death he deserves. (Interestingly, I read an interview with Morghen where he has trashed the horror film and its fans... one wonders why he has made so many and why he shows up at conventions throughout America.) I have to give credence to Simon Boswell's rocking 1980s score. Some reviewers look back now, and knock Boswell for his inclusion of heavy metal into this and other films (such as "Phenomena" or the "Demons" films). Let's be clear, this is not Boswell's doing. The directors at the time did this. I don't really know why. But unlike the others, I don't mind it... it really gives a pumping rhythm to what could otherwise be a slower-feeling film.
Fans of horror, slashers, Italian films, Soavi, etc. all need to put this on their list. And if it doesn't already exist, there needs to be a demand for a special edition disc. To my knowledge, there really isn't such a thing yet, and that's a shame. Soavi is often forgotten behind his predecessors, but he is much greater than generally perceived.
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