Sunday, July 17, 2011

White Tights and Red Stains: Deliria (1987)

Deliria/ Stagefright (Italy, 1987)
Rating: ****
Starring: David Brandon, Barbara Cuspiti and John Morghen

With the number of their giallo titles declining and American slasher flicks reigning supreme in the 80s, Italy often tried molding giallo/slasher hybrids by focusing more on the kill count and gore, all the while putting up the artistic sensibilities these gialli are known for. Director Michele Soavi, who hardcore horror fans will remember as the genius behind the psychological zombie flick “Dellamorte Dellamore”/”Cemetery Man” did exactly that and came up with his little take on the slasher movie fare, simply about a feller who "chops people into little bits"...
I now what you're thinking...No, this wasn't for reals...
A group of dancers and stage performers were doing a rehearsal one night, a musical concerning the murder spree of a serial killer called the Night Owl when one performer sprains an ankle. Hopping unto a van with a friend, the pair visits the nearest hospital they could find, which happens to be a mental hospital who agrees to do a check up anyways (!), and there they encounter Irving Wallace, an ex-stage performer who went insane for no God damn reason and chopped people to bits many moons ago. Little to everybody knows, after all of these years in confinement, Wallace finds a chance to escape, killing his way out of the hospital and sneaking into the van so he can continue his spree, this time targeting the rehearsal.

They maybe not the fat sheriffs we're used to, but they sure are no different...
Stagefright (1987) is a work of love for both genres; it has the makings of a slasher film with the technicalities and slick style of a giallo flick. Surely enough, the film may lack any known logic and it does have plenty of overacting or underacting characters, but the movie managed to bring delight out of the easy plotting by means of cheesy fares, glorious bodycount, beautifully shot cinematography and a booming soundtrack.

The giallo elements are made present and put to good use, blending into the film through music and lighting as estranged camera angles make the murders more graphic or unnerving, if not satisfyingly creepy. Aside from that, the film also makes a clever symbolism for all of the mayhem; the killer dons an owl mask that’s huge and awkward looking (though now iconic), playing the whole movie as synonymous to animal instinct, with the killer taking the role of the predator and the victims, one by one falling into the killer’s murderous madness, are the helpless prey.
A giallo's influence...slasher style.
The killer himself, too, isn't  that bad of a concept. He’s not desperate, nor is he trying so hard to make an impression but rather, he just gets whatever he can find (and luckily for him, there’s also a workshop on the back of the soundstage, complete with power tools!) and kills them with it or improvise by setting traps, waiting in the shadows to spring at his victims and finish them off while they’re vulnerable.

Because of the film's fast-paced and overly familiar territory, very little of the characters are properly developed and the whole movie is just on big cat-and-mouse chase. The sheer randomness of the situation really brings out the nightmare logic from this title, thus Stagefright (1987), with its imperfections, has a modest charm and it succeeds in giving what the audience wants: blood, chaos, massacres and an originally creative killer. Brainless yet entertaining walk through with the familiar and a definite must-try for all fans!
"Do you mind shutting the door? I'm working up a body here!"
1 male found dying with a syringe sticked to his neck
1 female pickaxed to the mouth
1 female stabbed while being strangled
1 male stabbed with knife
1 male powerdrilled through the chest
1 male accidentally axed to death
1 female torn in half
1 male eviscerated with chainsaw
1 male had an arm sawed off with chainsaw, beheaded with axe
1 female gutted with knife
1 male shot between the eyes (?)
Total: 11(?)

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