Thursday, March 4, 2010

Foreign Fears: Deliria (aka: Stagefright, Bloody Bird, and Stagefright: Aquarius)

Stage Fright (1987)
review by Nickolas Cook

Directed by Michele Soavi
Cast: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Mickey Knox, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Clain Parker, Loredana Parrella, Martin Philips, James Sampson, Ulrike Schwerk, Mary Sellers, Jo Ann Smith, Piero Vida and Richard Barkeley

When I say they don't make them like this anymore, I mean it. Better known overseas in its home country of Italy as 'Deliria', this spicy and grotesquely graphic slasher picture is one of a kind, from a very one of a kind director: Michele Soavi. He's sort of a legend from the old school of 70s and 80s Italian horror. Not only because he worked along side Dario Argento and Joe D'Amato, but because he's helmed some rather classic movies in his own right: The Church (1989), The Sect (also known as The Devil's Daughter) (1991) and Cemetery Man (1994).
Deliria is a sort of backhanded indictment of the theater culture and the entertainment industry, in general. All of the slimy show business cliches get a good going over before the killer even makes his first appearance. We meet a pretty unattractive group of talentless and fame hungry actors and actresses, being whipped into shape for an upcoming (and from what we can gather, a tasteless) stage performance, by a despotic asshole of a director.
One of the girls hurts her leg during rehearsal and sneaks away to a local hospital, which turns out to be an insane asylum, where an infamous insane killer (who just happened to be a professional stage actor before he went insane and started chopping up his fellow thespians) is being treated. The killer catches a snatch of conversation between his doctor and the injured girl and he manages to kill his warden and stows away in the girl's car as she returns to the theater.
Where she is confronted by the asshole director and fired for leaving the set against his orders.
The first murder is quick, unexpected and involves a young woman, a cat and a pick axe.
And speaking of the killer...he wears a rather creepy owl head mask the whole time, using an axe, a knife, even at one point, a freakin' power drill, to do in his screaming histrionic victims, left and right.
Deliria is filled with Soavi's trademark gorgeous cinematography, wispy at times and turning nasty brutal at other times.
You won't find the standard teen body count in Deliria. As is usual with Italian slasher films, the victims are adults- pessimistic, street wise, and, even, at times, thoroughly cosmopolitan.
Although they still die just as bloodily as any of the bouncing-titted machete fodder screamers in a Friday the 13th film, I defy you to find a stranger slasher movie than Deliria- in any decade, folks.
(NOTE: If you can get the uncut version- which was released a few years ago by Anchor Bay- do yourself a favor and get it. It has all the gore scenes cut from the original, and, boy, are they worth it, if you're a gorehound.)

--Nickolas Cook