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us title: StageFright: Aquarius
italian title: Deliria
year: 1987
director: Michael Soavi
composer: Simon Boswell
full details: IMDB
overall score: 21

Bottom Line: A Worthwhile Deviation
Breaks some important rules and comes out on top as a result.

WARNING: Spoilers Below

score analysis

Michele Soavi's Stagefright: Aquarius deserves a lot more attention than it will get here on As an Argento protégé, the bar (which Soavi reaches with ease) is set very high for his first film as a director. Clearly inspired by Tenebre as well as Lamberto Bava's Demons (Soavi serving as assistant director for both films), Stagefright is an effective time capsule of Italian 80s horror.

What's most interesting to me about Stagefright is not its top notch photography, well-choreographed scares or overwhelming sense of claustrophobia that dominates the majority of them. Instead I find it fascinating that this film is always included in the list of films within the Giallo genre when it bares little resemblance to the stylistic urban murder mysteries that defined the genre 15 years prior to its release. In the same way that many people include Suspiria in the Gialli list, Stagefright is a Giallo by association more than anything else.

Clearly the abysmal score here can be attributed to the lack of any mystery in this film. Within the first 15 minutes we are introduced to the killer and there's never any confusion over his identity or intentions. There are no black gloves, no suspects, no amateur detective and no motivations for murder other than pure evil. The urban setting is jettisoned for the single location of a performing arts theater. And none of the genre signatures are anywhere to be found. I even contemplated giving the film 5 points for Soavi contributions to the genre from other films, but there really aren't any. Other than Stagefright, Soavi's films are unique and impossible to classify.

The irony is that while Stagefright is almost 100% slasher film (and clearly wants to be), it can't seem to shake the historical Gialli lineage (provided by Argento and Bava) to which it is permanently pinned. And while all the American slashers from this time period owe their existence to the pioneering work of the Gialli directors, they're never as closely tied to the Giallo like Stagefright is. 

Of course this is all academic conjecture. Stagefright is a fun and wild ride that commands the viewer's attention and delivers a (mostly) satisfying payoff. The film fits the designation of "Worthwhile Deviation" perfectly. And while some Gialli force you to abandon all hope of solving the mystery because of their incomprehensible plots, Stagefright doesn't even operate under that pretense. It expects no effort whatsoever on the part of the viewer and only asks that you sit back and enjoy.

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score breakdown

Hint: Hover over a score item for more details
Staples : 15/60
Italian Director10 points
Avoid Capture: Killed by Police or other character5 points
Standards : 4/30
Body Count >= 34 points
Signatures : 2/10
Dolls/Dummies1 point
Photography/Glamor/Modeling/Art1 point
Total Points : 21/100



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Published: 2014-03-27