By the late 1980s, there had been numerous movies about masked killers and seeing as how that seemed to be the fad and that most audiences usually ate that kind of horror up, StageFright or Deliria as it was originally called, would do the same thing. Being a mixed bag of both slasher and giallo, the film would have much better production values than the usual fair churned out by the studios of the time and would be directed by Michele Soavi, the man who would eventually give The Church and Cemetary Man to the world. The great thing about it all was that despite being an Italian director and of the horror persuasion, the film would be told in a linear fashion, making perfect sense from beginning to end unlike those directors that came before like Argento and Bava and so on. While there was nothing particularly wrong with the way previous directors of Italian cinema made their movies, being able to watch a film made in a more traditional manner is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
The story is a basic one – a killer has taken refuge within a playhouse where a group of actors and actresses are practicing their craft for an upcoming production. Now locked in with the killer who also happens to be an actor and quite mad to boot, they need to figure out a way to stay alive and a means of escape as well.
While few might lament that the movie is a little boring at times, they might only find it so due to the fact that a few of the characters are slightly unlikable, particularly Peter as played by David Brandon who is the company’s director. The man is overbearing and rude and while it is his production, he cannot seem to stop himself from being unbelievably hostile at times. As it is, the cast does a great job of it, really selling the fact that they are being hunted down by a madman and not really believing it to be true as the shock of the situation sets in. Soavi creates a very tense atmosphere with some interesting shots among the different camera angles used, at times the picture becoming claustrophobic as there is no escape and the victims sometimes trying to hide in even smaller rooms within, thinking they can hide when there is nowhere to go. For the most part, the film moves along at a brisk pace and even when it slows down for a second, it is usually only for the sake of characterization, the movie giving us a look at the killer as he finds satisfaction in his work or the tenacity of Alicia as she looks for a way to evade the man and free herself.
There is of course a lot of violence, quite a bit of blood and gore and even a little nudity thrown in for those horror cliché completionists. At times, the film is actually quite terrifying, not because of the actions the killer makes as those are expected, but more so due to his look with the giant owl mask that he wears and of the situation itself, of being trapped and knowing that death is inevitable. For a first go at a feature film, Soavi does a great job and creates a very scary and memorable villain, one that is not easy to forget when all is said and done.
4 out of 5