The Horror Honeys: Slasher Hexmas: Screams of Terror Silenced Only by Splintering Glass!

Slasher Hexmas: Screams of Terror Silenced Only by Splintering Glass!

A Guest Honey Slasher Hexmas Review with Kim

Stage Fright (1980)

“This play is a comedy about death.” 

Though the character was talking about a play, I find that the phrase nicely sums up my feelings on Stage Fright…although the comedy part may not have always been intentional. I have two theatre degrees, which means I now know the proper way to spell “theatre,” and that I enter into ANYTHING dealing with theatre or show business with trepidation. All it takes is a mention of NBCs now-defunct Smash to send me into a psychotic episode. Starry Eyes had me in the corner sucking my thumb while clutching my cat. Nevertheless, I heard the words “80s Australian Slasher” and couldn’t resist the siren call of what would inevitably be a delightful disaster of a movie. 

Stage Fright (or Nightmares, as it is more commonly known) introduces us first to Cathy, a young child who has the misfortune of walking in on her mother and boyfriend engaged in one of the many perplexing sexual positions seen in this film. Later, while driving, Cathy notices the boyfriend getting handsy with her Mom. She lashes out, causing an accident that kills her mother. If that weren’t traumatic enough, said piece of crap boyfriend decides that Cathy is the perfect stand-in for her dead mother, resulting in Cathy having a psychotic break.

Flash-forward: Cathy’s now an adult and going by the name Helen. Helen is trying to become an actress, and also overcome by her rather gigantic issues about sex and intimacy. She finds herself cast in a new play, A Comedy of Death, and engaged in a romance with her co-star Terry (Gary Sweet). Girl runs pretty hot and cold, though, giddy and happy one minute, snapping and depressed the next. Her mood swings are bizarre and often come from nowhere. (She’s basically acting like a hundred other diva actresses I’ve encountered over the years.) As people start dying, Helen worries that maybe she’s responsible for the gruesome deaths. The audience is left wondering the same thing (or not wondering). 

The killings are largely the same: two people get amorous and naked, then are assaulted by an unseen person wearing heels and gloves, wielding a shard of broken glass. Little is seen of the killer, but the film leaves no doubt who’s responsible.  

I have to admit, despite its many flaws, I found myself mostly enjoying this movie. The standouts were Max Phipps as the never-satisfied director George D’alberg, and John Michael Howson as the bitchy theatre critic Bennett Collingswood. Their scenes together were delightfully catty. 

Collingswood hits on anything with a pulse (and in one scene he does, casually switching between Helen and her male costars). D’alberg has some of the most amazing run-on sentences I have ever heard, and constantly spits vicious, nonsensical criticism at his actors. There was one particular exchange where he compared an actress’s performance to that of a “big brown freckle” (i.e. an asshole) – it’s both hysterical and utterly perplexing. (He may be my new mentor for teaching young actors.) 

Though the movie often borders on the ridiculous, it’s fast paced - never boring - with over-the-top characters to keep you entertained and distract from the rather thin plot. Plus, if you’re a fan of naked death scenes, enjoy plenty of butts, boobs and 1980s bush. 

Sex usually leads to death in slashers but Stage Fright raises that trope to a whole new level. I’ve never seen so many horny actors more obsessed with feeling each other up (and remember, I have two theatre degrees). In the Stage Fright universe, it isn’t uncommon for the males to greet a female by walking over and grabbing their boob. (The women seemed fine with it). That soon leads to naked shenanigans, and bam, out comes the killer in black heels and black gloves. 

If you’re looking for hardcore gore you’ll probably be disappointed. Though plenty of blood is spilled, the gore effects were fairly tame, and obviously a lower priority in the film’s budget. It’s as though they thought a lot of fake blood would prevent us from noticing the glass murder weapon failed to actually penetrate anyone half of the time. 

The biggest flaw was the editing, which felt messy, and often defaulted to fading to black - not an appropriate way to convey mood in a slasher. Some of the transitions felt awkwardly placed – almost bizarre. I also found myself disappointed in the ending. Maybe I was hoping for more, or hoping to be more surprised, but it felt very abrupt, as if the filmmakers were forced to change their plans at the last minute. 

Despite these flaws, if you’re a slasher fan, you’ll probably enjoy the outrageous and amusing script, campy characters, naked deaths and fast pace.

Guest Honey Rating: 3 ½ broken legs out of 5.   

Stage Fright (Nightmares) is available via YouTube, & DVD

Have YOU seen this Australian slasher?
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