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Film / StageFright -Aquarius-

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The theatre of death.

StageFright -Aquarius- (a.k.a. Deliria, Aquarius and Stage Fright) is an Italian Slasher Movie with giallo elements from the year 1987. It is the first feature film directed by Michele Soavi, who also did Cemetery Man seven years later. The screenplay was written by Italian horror veteran Luigi Montefiori, better known under the name George Eastman.

The film opens with our main characters rehearsing the play by the name of The Night Owl. Alicia, one of the actors, slips away briefly with Betty to get some treatment for her sprained ankle. They visit the local psychiatric hospital, where Alicia runs to Irving Wallace, an actor who recently went crazy and gruesomely killed and mutilated 16 people. Irving manages to escape from the hospital and hitches a ride with the women to the theatre. He then kills Betty just outside the theatre. After Alicia finds her body, the police are quickly called to the scene.

After the police and the press leave, Peter the director convinces the main funder Ferrari and the cast to keep on practising the play, as the murder can get them more attention. To ensure the show going on, he locks up the doors, not knowing that Irving is with them and about to start hacking them up in various ways.

Examples within the film:

  • All Part of the Show: When Irving kills Corinne, Peter's first reaction is to wonder why is he using a knife.
  • Alliterative Name: Alicia Alvarez.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Irving cuts off Peter's right before his chainsaw runs out of fuel.
  • Asshole Victim: Peter, Ferrari and Laurel.
  • Auto Erotica: When Laurel is being called to the stage, she is busy making out with Dominic in an automobile prop.
  • Ax-Crazy: Irving. It's hard to classify you as sane when you slaughter people and then pose them.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Irving punches through a door to grab Mark.
  • Big Bad: Irving Wallace.
  • Big "NO!": Peter's last words.
  • Black Dude Dies First: HELL NO! Willy gets off the set before the slaughter starts and only comes back at the end of the film... to shoot Irving right between the eyes!
  • Blood from the Mouth: Corinne bleeds from the mouth after being stabbed.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the very end, supposedly dead Irving smirks at the camera. According to Soavi, it's a Lampshade Hanging on how the killer is always alive at the end.
  • Bury Your Gays: Camp Gay Brett is among Irving's victims. Fortunately, unlike other horror films, he doesn’t get the most brutal, harrowing, or torturous death. That (dis)honor goes to Laurel.
  • Camp Gay: Brett could be called an offensive stereotype if he wasn't so fun about it.
  • Cat Scare: Willy's cat Lucifer provides one to Betty when she goes to check her car.
  • Chainsaw Good: When Danny goes after Irving, he kills him with a chainsaw.
  • Closed Circle: Peter locks up the he theatre to coerce the actors to accept his sensationalistic changes to the script.
  • Covers Always Lie: Some posters depict Irving smashing a fish tank with an axe. The fish tank in question does appear, but it doesn't get destroyed.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Soavi appears as the younger cop stationed in the car outside the theatre.
    • One of film's writers appears as a nurse.
    • Screenwriter George Eastman has an uncredited appearance as the masked Irving Wallace.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Irving cuts the phone line to the theatre.
  • Death by Materialism: Ferrari dies soon after leaving behind others to secure his briefcase full of his money.
  • Death by Mocking: Brett, who according to the characters is fond of pranks.
  • Dirty Old Man: Ferrari, according to the cast. And the scene where he offers to help Alicia in a conspicuous way and doesn't deny it when she accuses him more or less that he just wants to help himself to her.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: The younger cop stationed outside happily munches on a donut while the older cop laments the fact that his wife forces him to eat healthily.
  • Eye Scream: Alicia stabs Irving in the eye when he grabs her.
  • Final Girl: Alicia
  • Flipping the Bird: Laurel flips off Brett when he waves at her from the sidelines.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: Irving Wallace's motives and backstory aren't explained in any detail. He's just a former stage actor who went violently nuts and seems to enjoy being in center stage among dead bodies. The film wouldn't have changed that much if he'd been replaced with a killer shark.
  • Gorn: The film is quite violent, as one would expect from an Italian Slasher flick.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Irving pulls Sybil through a floor, and as Peter and Danny try to pull her up, he slices her in half.
  • Hanging by the Fingers: When Irving loses his balance up in the scaffolds, he finds himself hanging onto a ledge and Alicia hitting his fingers with a fire extinguisher.
  • Heroic BSoD: Willy gets one when he shoots Irving..
    Willy: I... I just went to get the gun, trying to show you how to put a bullet in the chamber. See that? I got him right between the eyes! Just like I said... Right between the eyes! Damn... You see that Ally? Right betw... right between the eyes! Just like I said. Between... between the eyes. Got him... etc.
  • Homage: The Mirror Scare scene is a homage to Dario Argento's Tenebre, where Soavi worked as an assistant director.
  • A House Divided: Averted, as when the remaining cast starts to crack in the dressing room, Alicia quickly tells them off.
  • Hysterical Woman: Sybil after Corinne's death.
  • Implacable Man: Nothing will stop Irwin until he gets his twisted hands on every member of the cast and turn them into corpses-props for his play. Not even falling from a great height or getting burned alive will do more than slow him down.
    • Getting sprayed with a fire extinguisher is somehow able to stun him though.
  • Jerkass: Peter is one throughout the production.
    • It seems that he is mending his ways by apologizing to Alicia after the massacre begins and even tries to be proactive and suggests some Genre Savvy moves like sticking together. Then when Irving comes at him with a chainsaw, he just has to push Laurel towards him.
  • Kick the Dog: Peter pushing Laurel at Irving when he is approaching the two. Prior to this, he throws the cat Lucifer across the stage.
  • Mad Artist: Irving seems to be one. After he thinks that he has killed everyone, he organizes the bodies bizarrely on the stage, setting up a fan to blow feathers across them, and takes a seat at the stage's center with the theater's cat on his lap. Dialogue exchange earlier in the film reveals that he posed the bodies during his last slayings.
  • Man on Fire: Alicia sets Irving on fire with one of the Trashcan Bonfire props.
  • Mirror Scare: When Brett takes a bow for an imaginative audience on front of a mirror, it is shown that Irving was standing behind him.
  • Morning Sickness: Sybil is pregnant and suffers from this throughout the film.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Gruesomely parodied with Irving using his victims as actors on a stage.
  • Murder by Mistake: Peter kills Brett in the attic, thinking that he was attacking Irving.
  • Mysterious Past: We're not told why Irving went insane and why exactly he arranges his victims bodies the way he does.
  • Never Split the Party: When the cast realizes that they can't get out the building, Peter suggests that they stay together and retreat to the dressing room. However, due to Alicia's sprained ankle they all can't go to get the spare keys together. This leads Peter and Danny justifiable splitting up with others temporarily to go look for them.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-universe, Mark decides to uses Betty's murder to get some extra publicity for their play. He also alters the script to more closely resemble the Irving Wallace murders.
  • Not Quite Dead: To an exasperating degree there are not many films where one of the main in-jokes is that the killer just.won't.fucking.die
  • Off with His Head!: Irving beheads Peter. He also does it to one of the mannequins when he is organizing his "exhibit".
  • One-Woman Wail: On the soundtrack.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Irving sets Ferrari's corpse on a rope to surprise the men who come looking after him.
  • Pet the Dog: Peter gets such moment when he openly admits his faults.
  • The Show Must Go On: Peter convinces the cast to keep on practicing after Betty's murder, because now they have change for some recognition.
  • Show Within a Show: The Night Owl, a sleaze-filled dance play featuring sex and murder. Has it's own tropes:
  • Silent Antagonist: Irving never says anything, closest is in the ending when he looks at the camera and gives a bemused "hmph".
  • Staggered Zoom: Used when Irving falls from the scaffolds and his body is shown.
  • This Is a Drill: Mark is killed with a power drill.
  • Those Two Guys: The two cops stationed outside the theater, who provide little comic relief.
  • Token Minority: Willy. However not only was he in no danger to begin with, but he even gets the honour to be the one to deliver the finishing blow to Irving and the one to suffer from the trauma afterwards.