Stage Fright (1987 film)

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Stage Fright
Italian theatrical release poster
Directed byMichele Soavi
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyRenato Tafuri
Edited byKathleen Stratton
Music by
  • DMV Distribuzione
  • Filmirage
Distributed byArtists Entertainment Group
Release date
Running time
86 minutes

Stage Fright (Italian: Deliria) is a 1987 Italian slasher film directed by Michael Soavi, and starring Barbara Cupisti, David Brandon, and Giovanni Lombardo Radice. The plot involves a group of stage actors and crew who lock themselves inside a theater for rehearsal of a musical production, unaware that an escaped mental patient is locked inside with them.


Late at night, inside a theater, a troupe of actors and crew consisting of the director Peter, Alicia, Mark, Sybil, Betty, Corinne, Laurel, Danny, Brett, and Ferrari are rehearsing a musical about a fictional mass murderer known as the Night Owl. When Alicia sprains her ankle, she and Betty sneak out of rehearsal for medical assistance, the closest being a mental hospital. When speaking to the psychiatrist, Betty notices an imprisoned patient named Irving Wallace, a former actor who had gone insane and committed a killing spree. Unbeknownst to any of them, Wallace killed one of the attendants with a syringe and snuck out of the asylum to hide inside Betty's car.

Upon returning, Peter fires Alicia for leaving during the rehearsal. Outside, Betty returns to the car only to be murdered by Wallace with a pickaxe to the mouth. Moments later, Alicia finds her body and contacts the police. The body is removed, and two officers are stationed outside the premises.

Meanwhile, Peter creates an idea by altering the play's script; he renames the show's antagonist to Irving Wallace instead of an ambiguous killer and insists that everyone (including rehired Alicia) stay the night to begin immediate rehearsals with the new material. The group reluctantly agrees to stay with the promise of additional cash, and Corinne hides the theater's exit key. While changing her costume, Laurel is stalked by a shadowy figure whom she thinks to be Brett. Brett then stays behind to search for his costume, not noticing Wallace donning the theater's owl costume behind him.

Peter shoots a scene with Corinne. In the owl costume, Wallace approaches Corinne before grabbing and strangling her, unbeknownst to the others. He pulls out a knife and stabs Corinne several times, killing her, while the others watch in shock. Without the key's whereabouts, the group begins to panic, and the killer disconnects the phone lines to prevent them from contacting the officers. While the group tries to find an escape route, Ferrari is stabbed by Wallace, who hangs his body upon being found by the group.

While Peter and Danny leave the group inside a room to search for the killer, Laurel notices Wallace outside trying to open the door, and the group barricades it. The killer then breaks the window to grab Mark before killing him with a power drill through the door. Peter and Danny return, and, upon witnessing Mark's murder, they plan to stick together and defend themselves.

While the group moves on to the stage, Peter notices the killer up on the upper catwalks and goes after him while asking the others to corner him too. Laurel leaves Alicia behind after accidentally knocking her out. Peter then hacks up the missing Brett (who is donning a similar owl costume and is unknowingly tied up) with an axe, thinking he was Wallace. Soon, Sybil is grabbed by the killer and is pulled into the floor. Danny and Peter grab her arms and try to pull her up, but, as a result, Sybil is torn in half. Danny immediately goes down and is also killed by Wallace with a chainsaw. Cornering Peter and Laurel, Wallace wounds Laurel and cuts off Peter's arm before the chainsaw runs out of fuel. The killer takes the axe and ultimately decapitates the director.

Alicia wakes up and finds a wounded Laurel hiding in the shower room. While she hides, Wallace grabs Laurel and stabs her before dragging her body away. Alicia arms herself and searches for the key, only to see Wallace sitting next to the group's bodies placed around the stage and covered with feathers.

She successfully finds the key underneath the stage and defends herself against Wallace before going up to the catwalks. As Wallace corners her, she sprays a fire extinguisher into his face, knocking him over and leaving him hanging onto a loose cable. After the cable is severed and the killer falls, Alicia makes her way to the door, but Wallace attacks again. She dumps a burning bin onto him, igniting him, then escapes the theater and tells the police about the events. The next morning, Alicia returns to the theater to find her missing watch, just before an unmasked Wallace prepares to attack her. Willy shoots him in the head, and he rambles about getting him "right in-between in the eyes" while a disturbed Alicia walks out. Wallace then looks at the camera and smirks, apparently having survived his headshot.



The film marks the directorial debut of Dario Argento protégé Michele Soavi and was produced by Joe D'Amato.[1]

Soavi stated that on Stage Fright he "didn't feel ready to direct, but of course I said yes when I was offered a chance."[2]


Stage Fright was released in 1987.[3] It was also released outside of Italy as Bloody Bird and Aquarius.[2]

Critical response[edit]

AllMovie awarded the film three out of five stars, writing: "Stage Fright is primarily for the horror audience but they are likely to enjoy its visually inventive approach to the usually humdrum slasher subgenre", calling the film "a good example of how style can triumph over substance in a genre effort" and praising Soavi's direction.[4]



  1. ^ "Stage Fright (1987) - Michele Soavi | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovie".
  2. ^ a b McDonagh 1992, p. 46.
  3. ^ Hanneman 2008, p. 43.
  4. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "Stage Fright (1987) - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 20 June 2012.


  • Hanneman, Nathan (July–August 2008). "The 20 Most Underrated Slashers of the 1980s!". HorrorHound. No. 12.
  • McDonagh, Maitland (1992). "Sects & Violence". Gorezone. No. 21.

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