Customer Reviews: Stagefright
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on April 20, 2002
Stage Fright is one of the scariest slasher films ever that almost matches up with Halloween and Psycho. The plot is simple:
Alicia, who is working on a play that is about a psycho killer dressed as an owl, hurts her ankle on set and then her costume lady named Betty sneaks her out of rehearsal and takes her to the nearest hospital. But it isn't just a hospital, it ends up being a mental institution! Still, the doctor there agrees to look at Alicia's ankle. Staying at that hospital is Irving Wallace, a beserk actor who took 16 people and "cut them into little pieces!". He is staying there because the court is reviewing his trial. Betty and Alicia go back to the theater when they're done, but they end up bringing Irving Wallace back with them because they forgot to lock the door to the car!
*Spoiler Warining* Soon after Alicia is fired for sneaking out by the director of the play named Peter, who needed her while she was gone. Betty goes back out to her car because she left her lights on and is then murdered by Irving Wallace (I won't say how, it's pretty creative). After the police come and take away her body, Peter tells Newspaper Journalist Mr. Ferrari that he will take Betty's murder as an advertisement and pull opening night back a week to encourage more people to come.
Peter asks 8 people in the production to stay and rehearse all night. They are actors Brett, Laurel, Cibil, Corrine, Danny, Alicia, assistant director Mark, and journalist Farrari. Peter asks Corrine to lock all the doors to the theater and hide the key so nobody will be able to get out and they will have to rehearse all night. Unfortunatly, Irving Wallace gets locked in along with them, and steals Brett's owl costume and walks around the theater with it. Soon after, Brett dissapears and during rehearsal on stage in front of everyone's eyes, Irving Wallace murders Corrine. Corrine was the only one who knew where the key was, and Irving pulled out the wires to the telephones, so they are trapped in there and they have to find the hiddent key to get out to the 2 policeman outside in a car. Irving Wallace starts murdering them one by one in gruesome fashion.
This movie is stunning. The soundtrack is great, the music loud and suspenseful. The gore level is high and the special effects are great. The cinematography is outstanding, especially during the fish tank scene and a certain scene at the end that will definatly have you on the edge of your seat.
Stage Fright is one of the best slasher films ever. Definatly comes close to Halloween and Psycho. Director Soavi is a great director for this film. This is highly recommended to horror film fans, even recammended to people who don't like horror films.
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on October 21, 2009
Say what you will about Italian horror cinema, from the sixties into the eighties they were some of the best at mixing art and cheese into something more interesting than most other countries. Stagefright is a slasher flick from the eighties and with its opening dance number its a film that feels its age. Apparently a theatre group is rehearsing a play that involves rape, dance sequences and killers dressed in giant bird heads. The director is prick, theres a gay guy, and other assorted characters who start dying when a madman escapes conveniently locking himself in with the troupe and offing them in a bevy of ways (the best on set in an owl mask strangling a girl as the director shouts "Kill Her" for direction).
The film as it is marks the debut of Michele Soavi, one of the names outside of Argento and Bava that marks one of the directors that must be watched. His films might be an aquired taste but they do remain artistically beautiful if perplexing in that arthouse way that the Italians do. The film is very photogenic and beautiful to look at even if it reminds you totally of the decade known as the eighties. The characters are thin with some cliche thrown in which makes it easy to watch when they die, and what the film does well is kill off characters. Plus for a slasher film I will have to say that having a killer wearing a well made owl mask is rather interesting from the perspective of this viewer. The film isn't for all tastes but its fun to view in my opinion.
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on February 24, 2002
This is the debut film of Michele Soavi, director of the classic Cemetery Man. Soavi, who worked as assistant director to Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava among others, has crafted an intense and stylish slasher about an escaped homicidal maniac stalking the cast and crew of a musical that have decided to base their play on him. With brutally gory scares and an overpowering claustrophobic atmosphere, this has some stunning sequences that outshine many of its American counterparts that came out in the 80's (especially in a scene where one of the castmembers must retrieve a key, in order to escape, from underneath the killers feet!). Look for John Morghen (Gates Of Hell, Make Them Die Slowly) in a small role. This release from Anchor Bay is a great transfer (restored from original Rome vault materials) and is totally uncut.
On a side note- Director Terry Gilliam met Soavi at the Brussels Fantasy Film Festival where Stagefright was being shown.He liked this film so much that he made Soavi a 2nd unit director on his next film-The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen.
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on December 12, 2009
Out of all the Argento-inspired giallo films of the 1980's, this is one of the best, if not THE best, with it's quirky character banter, quotable lines, off-the-wall camera moves, and phenomenal musical score by Simon Boswell and Stefano Mainetti. I only heard about it thanks to home video because, disappointingly (but certainly not surprisingly), the film was never shown theatrically here in the States. And that, my friends, is a damn shame when you consider that DR. GIGGLES was distributed by Universal Pictures.
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on May 26, 2013
You may have heard the story a few times over, but will we ever get tired of it? NO!

A good 80's slasher with interesting characters, some awesome kills and a very memorable killer. Not only that, but the added bonus of extreme 80's nostalgia.... complete with sexy, sassy saxophone!!! Now if you are from the 80's like myself, you should know what i mean with that.... the 80's certainly had it's share of saxophone solos in top 10 music and music in movies.

This movie was not afraid to strut it's 80's stuff... Highly recommended to any collector of 80's horror.
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on October 8, 2014
More stylish than most, Stage Fright is a slasher flick that takes place in a theater on a dark and stormy night. The police are parked just outside, oblivious to the murder and mayhem that's taking place inside (because a tyrannical director thought it would be a good idea to lock the door and hide the key). As if that wasn't enough, there are also the usual backstage rivalries, an injured dancer is fired, and a pregnancy is carelessly revealed. As for the crazy killer, he just happens to cross paths with two of the women from the theater (they inadvertently give him a ride back to the scene of the crime). After that, all that's needed is a sudden costume change to throw everything into complete pandemonium. With an ingenious killer on the loose, where can you hide?

This is standard for its type, there's nothing really unique about the way it sets up the action. I suppose that's the reason I like it; everything is expected, it doesn't deviate from the formula that most filmmakers use in this genre. It plays at suspense, the characters range from annoying to unlikable, the dubbing is adequate. I can't think of anything that I really didn't like about it. I'm happy to have it in my collection.
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on January 4, 2013
I will not ruin this film for potential viewers and/or buyers by giving an in depth plot synopsis of Stagefright. Simply put, Stagefright is a brilliant giallo that will not disappoint fans of the genre; it possesses visually stunning cinematography, a flavorful cast, and adventurous script. Like most giallo films, the script is not Faulkner. Do not go in to this film expecting great poetry or literature, plot wise; though it is a visceral experience that will stay with you. Giallo films are adventures, in my book, and this particular one is quite something.

With plenty of gore, intricate set-pieces and twists, I highly recommend this understated, underrated and obscure little film to any horror fan!
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on March 21, 2002
The first fiction movie of Michele Soavi is a very good surprise for the amateur of horror flicks. I mean of good horror flicks because, believe me or not, those movies exist but you must have a strong stomach and a lot of patience to discover them amidst the vast choice available. STAGE FRIGHT belongs to the peculiar sub-genre of the psycho-thriller, a genre directly inspired by Agatha Christie's AND THEN THEY WERE NONE. Take a dozen innocent victims and a madman with a mask and that's it.
From these premises on, directors reveal their peculiar skills or interests : some are, to speak frankly, would-be surgeons and like to fill the screen with gallons of blood during 90 minutes, some are more interested in the possibility to discover new ways of killing and the others seem to have accepted the job only in order to pay their taxes. Those directors are of no interest to me so I just skip them.
But Michele Soavi's STAGE FRIGHT reveals an authentic filmmaker. Locked in a theater, nine actors and a director must defend themselves against a madman who's just escaped from the local asylum. Like Jason or HALLOWEEN's Michael Myers, this madman wears a mask, the mask of an owl. And that's really innovative and scary. But completely stupid as the audience knows from the beginning of the movie on that the killer is Irving Wallace (not a spoiler), a serial killer.
So, from the moment one understands that the director's purpose is not to revolutionize the genre but rather to pay an homage to his colleagues and to the best scenes presented so far - in 1987 - , the movie stops being only a scary flick and becomes a wonderful journey through the annals of the cinema of horror. I've particularly liked the homage to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, a scene filled with a visual poesy one rarely finds in such movies.
Of course, Soavi didn't have an enormous budget to spend, certain characters don't have much to say and the actors are a little amateurish at times but who cares after all, STAGE FRIGHT delivering a subtle pleasure that blockbusters unfortunately can't give anymore nowadays.
Superb transfer from Anchor Bay, a trailer and a biography of the director as bonus pictures.
A DVD zone screaming room.
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on October 30, 2004
This is a cool slasher movie, though not quite as good as I'd hoped/anticipated. It's pretty stylish, and quite tense a lot of the time, but it takes a while to get going, and the stuff the occurs before the killing starts is pretty weak. Even after the killing starts things don't really take off until Cupisiti's the only one left. The killing of the other cast members is pretty good, but generally far from extraordinary. Still it's worth a look.

There ain't a whole lotta plot to this, and virtually no character development.(Let's see here, the director is a jerk, Radice is an over-the-top gay stereotype and.... well that's it. Everyone else is a faceless victim) Anyway the premise is that a killer, donning a big owl mask, gets loose at a light-night rehearsal for a musical. They become trapped in the building when the key is lost, and the only person who knows where it is has been murdered, and they then have to fight for survival. Despite the lack of plot, it takes a while to get going, as the characters pretty much just stand around and talk or complain about nothing in particular, or rehearse their fruity musical. But what can I say, the plot in a slasher movie is usually non-existant, and they're usually pretty boring until the killing starts. So none of that matters all that much.

Once the killer arrives, it doesn't take long for him to polish everyone off except the protagonist, played by Barbara Cupisiti.(And can't remember the characters name, so I'll just refer to the actress) The killings come so fast that they don't build that much suspense, but they are pretty gory. Though the fx tends to be mediocre to lousy, this movie still scores pretty well on the goremeter. We got a pick-axe through the mouth, some stabbing, some chainsawing, drill impalation, an axe decap and a chick gets ripped in half. The more effective kills, however, are actually some of the less gruesome ones. One of the best ones involves a stabbing during a rehearsal of the play. Naturally, the killer is mistaken for an actor in the play, and proceeds to stab the victim in front of everyone. It cuts between shots of the killer attacking her and close-ups of each of the witnesses faces, showing their confusion and horror. It's a very nicely done scene. Even better is a scene late in the movie, as 2 potential victims hide in a room, one of them injured, which allows the killer to find them. As he holds the injured one up against the wall, about to stab her, the victim sees Barbara across the room, hiding. They just stare at each other for a moment, horrified, before he stabs her, neither of them able to do anything to prevent it. It's a bizarrely powerful moment, and evokes a genuine sense of hopelessness.

As I said before, things really get good when Barbara and the killer are the only ones left. It's genuinely tense, and Soavi's visual style shines through, with great, steady camerawork, and a brightly colored and oddly light stage providing a surreal and eerie setting. The much famed scene of the killer hanging around on the stage with his victims is a cool as advertised. It ends with him sitting down and stroking a cat rather contentedly, with his various victims lying all about him, and a fan blowing feathers around the stage. It's truly an odd image, and it really has little to do with anything, but I think it's very cool. The following scene, as Barbara sneaks underneath the stage which contains the aforementioned nightmare image is also quite effective, and very suspenseful. Sadly, this film insists on their being some false climaxes, and, as usual, the latter climaxes tend to be worse than the earlier ones. But this doesn't detract to much, in the end, and is pretty much part of the territory.

I must mention that I rather like the killer's having an Owl head. It seemed like a bad idea to me, but I think it's actually pretty creepy in the movie. It's just such and odd thing, I dunno why it just works. Also, the score is pretty hit and miss. It's your standard Goblin rip-offf, and lots of it is just annoying, particularly the loud synth roar that they use repeatedly. Once again, the music in the latter part of the film tends to be more effective than the earlier stuff.

Yeah, I like this movie. Not great, but entertaining enough if you're into this sorta thing.
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on November 23, 2010
Generally slasher films are not my favorite genre. However, if done with visual style and a clever script, they can rise above the rest, which are, in my humble opinion, uninspired and monotonous. As an example: Dario Argento's Tenebre, Opera, and Deep Red, John Carpenter's Halloween, and Bob Clark and Roy Moore's Black Christmas (1974). I would undoubtedly add to this short list of genre gems Michael Saovi's debut film Stagefright, from 1987. He began as an employee of Argento and is best known for Cemetery Man. Another noteworthy film is The Sect (which, if I remember correctly, starred Jamie Lee Curtis' little sister). Unfortunately The sect is hard to find and is not available in US region DVD. Somebody should do something about that. However, Stagefright is his tightest, most intense and suspenseful movie to date. It is incredibly stylish and beautifully photographed. The Argento influence is prevalent in this. It's in the handling of the bloodletting (of which there is ample!), the colors, and the pacing of the movie. At times it takes on a surreal, dreamlike quality. Nothing on the level of, say, suspiria, but enough to create a few unforgettable images. The killer onstage creating his own "scene" toward the end is just an amazing sequence. Also, this movie has one of the most interesting and creepy killers of all time. He wears a black tuxedo and a full head owl mask. It's quite odd, and oddly effective. Overall, this is one of the best slasher films ever made. The well-written script alone puts it far above any of the Friday The 13ths or any of those. Highly recommended!!
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