No less an authority than Quentin Tarantino has referred to this film as, “the best Italian horror firm of the 1980’s.” I wouldn’t call it the best. I’m not sure if I’d even call it a horror film. It’s definitely a slasher film, the genre that takes the blame for killing off the production of horror films in the ’80’s. Like those flicks, “Stagefright” uses the plot device that was old when Agatha Christie had a killer pick off a group at an isolated location in “Ten Little Indians” (aka, “…and Then There Were None”).
This time out, the locale is a theatre where director Peter (David Brandon) is rehearsing his troupe for what would appear to be a very pretentious and very bad musical. When dancer Alicia (Barbara Cupisti) hurts her ankle, another member of this doomed outfit takes her to the nearest hospital, a MENTAL HOSPITAL! When they rush back to work, they seem to have brought back trouble in the form of escaped patient/crazed serial killer Irving Wallace (Clain Parker). Before you know it, everyone is trapped inside and a bloodbath ensues.
What’s so great about this? Much of the standard cliches of slasher picks are present. The killer is relentless, apparently indestructible, and (mostly) silent. A plucky heroine will have to overcome her fear in order to overcome the killer. False endings abound.
However, the film is actually pretty well made. Director Michæl Soavi had previously been an assistant to famed director Dario Argento. Although he’s massively undercut by a cheesy period hair-metal rock score (too bad somebody like Warrant or Whitesnake aren’t actually in the movie to get killed), he consistently builds suspense and manages to keep the surprises coming. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s at least good.