Monday, July 20, 2009

Stage Fright (Deliria) (1987)

I don't care what anyone says, I love Italian giallo films and will defend them tooth and nail. I don't know why, but I will. Since the very first time I sat in front of a little film known as Suspiria, my taste for giallo only grown more and more and the years went by. There's just something about the way they are crafted, the way they are executed, and there's something about how bizarre and out of left field they can sometimes be. The Italian giallo holds no bars when it comes to gore and suspense and just on that factor alone, they can completely redeem themselves for the inane and generally strange story lines that they can sometimes present.

I heard of this film for the very first time through a friend who was also a horror collector. He was surprised that I'd never heard of it and told me that it was one of the best Italian horror films he would ever lay eyes on. Of course, I don't take confessions like that too seriously. I've been duped into watching what turns out to be celluloid shit just because someone recommended it to me. With my peaking curiosity of Italian films - at this particular time, I hadn't seen too many and wasn't educated as I am now - I decided to look this one up and see how it would match up with my tastes. When it comes to Italian horror cinema, I always give the film in question the benefit of the doubt and make my own decisions, trying hard to rely on the advice of anyone or the advice of anything I read on line.

I finally came across this film in DVD form about three years ago at a local mom and pop where I was living at the time and instantly wasted no time in picking it up and taking it home with me. I loved the cover artwork and when I read that Anchor Bay had released it, I knew instantly that this was going to be something I'd never forget. And boy was I right.

Young, nubile thespians are rehearsing a play about a owl-masked killer on the loose when one of the leading ladies hurts herself and has to be driven to the local hospital. But, the local hospital isn't your run-of-the-mill hospital, it's a mental hospital. A very prominent and famous killer is being held there and he escapes and hides in the girls' car. As they go back to the auditorium, he sneaks in, locks them all in and picks them off one by one. And what a ride! I don't usually gush about horror like this but this one is a total diamond amongst all the trash you and I have learned to watch and love. On it's own, it stands out. It's stylized, it's gritty, and it's downright gorgeous. I don't want to give much of the action away, not because I don't think it's worthy to be mentioned, but if you haven't seen this, please go out and look for it. There is a real style to the whole thing that Michele Soavi (the Dario Argento progote who would go on to direct Cemetery Man) impressively brings to the screen. Camera shots, panning, lighting, angles, it all works in this film. And don't get me started on the brilliance of the actors.

Usually in these types of films, the acting is either sub-par or just absent altogether. Sometimes it's so out there that it goes over your head. But the cast in this film bring about an honesty that can't be ignored. From David Brandon's performance as Peter, the director, to the most random performance by Italian horror-character-actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice - as a homosexual. Enough said. The atmosphere of the film is also pretty darn creepy and it works on a variety of levels. Everything is set up in a manner that it falls into place when it needs to, leaving no plot holes and leaving nothing unexplained. The film does contain some legitimate scares and some moments are enough to make you jump out of your seat. With it being sometimes cookie-cutter as far as the methods that the killer stalks the victims, there is a way that Soavi presents them that surpass most slasher moments. Once the killer finds his way into the building and locks the group inside, hiding the key, and once the director (and his promoter/producer) find out that one of their own has been murdered, everything is fair game. The lewdness of the two as they use the murder of a fellow crew member to capitalize on the play's potential success is a plot twist that ultimately backfires on them, but just the idea of it is pretty messed up. The director makes the work overtime, pushing them to their limits, telling them how much money they can make and how famous and popular they will be. But once they begin to disappear, the plans fall through.

I'm having a hard time trying not to give some of the best moments of the film away. This is one that should be sought out at all costs. The version I first viewed was the Anchor Bay uncut DVD which was later re-released by Blue Underground (which I own). Both versions are exactly the same, menus, disc and all. I also own the very-heavily edited U.S. VHS version released by Imperial Entertainment. I purchased the BU DVD for less than ten dollars so please do yourself the favor and go out and get this one. The film's haunting scene where the "final girl" has to re-count the victims who have been gorily placed on stage is one of the best ever. The film's final moment is a bit tacky and everyone has done it before, but I was able to look past it and this film instantly became one of my top favorites of all time. I can watch it again and again and never get tired of it - that's how great it is. You will have a great time being scared by this one. I guarantee it.

I apologize that I didn't go into detail much about this one. It's that good that I want everyone to go out and look for it and make up your own mind about it. Here is the trailer if you haven't seen it already - This is one of all time faves. and for good reason.

Kill Her! Kill Her!!!!!!!!

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