Rating: 4 out of 5.

Slasher classic Stagefright has undergone a beautiful 4K restoration! This bizarre Italian film provided everything I wanted from an 80s slasher and more! Gnarly (and super gory) kill scenes, a plethora of solid chase sequences, a final girl one can root for, and a simple straightforward “trapped in a theater” setting… Throw in one of the creepiest mask designs—who knew an owl could look so menacing—and some trippy visuals clearly inspired by David Lynch, and you have a perfect little unseen gem.

All the world’s a stage—or, it is for our motley collection of victims. Only a week away from opening night, the main star, Alicia (Barbara Cupisti), twists her ankle. Costume designer Betty (Ulrike Schwerk) drives Alicia off to get patched up. Unbeknownst to either woman, a crazed killer hides in the car, and savagely murders Betty. Peter (David Brandon), the director, decides to use this for publicity—he polishes off a fresh draft of the script, then collects the actors and locks them all in the theatre for the night. With merely three days until the curtain rises on their first performance, Peter is hopeful that “this show will open!”

An owl-masked maniac has plans for a decidedly different type of show. An “intellectual musical” is off the table, and an operatic slasher rises to the surface. The first murder is memorably potent. An actress interacts with the owl-masked fiend on stage during rehearsals, but she gets stabbed multiple times with a very real knife! After this explosive scene of carnage, it practically becomes every man for himself. The killer picks them off one by one in typical slasher fashion. It is a total blast watching catty theatre kids in the crosshairs of a sadistic murderer. The kills are especially violent for this type of film.

Striking visuals, like the slow snowfall blanketing the floor of the stage near the owl-masked killer, set this apart from other horror of the era. Italian Giallo that does not feel like Italian Giallo (especially considering that subgenre is far from being one of my favorites), Stagefright is a bizarre feast for the senses from director Michele Soavi (1989’s The Church). It also happens to be the only movie I have ever seen that ends with a supremely strange jazz interlude folded into the credits.

Stagefright plunges its chainsaw into audiences everywhere when it comes to Blu-Ray and Digital On Demand on Monday, December 27th.

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