It’s rare that a black character in a horror movie gets the privilege of offing the killer — in large part because he himself is usually dead long before the climax — but that’s exactly what happens in this English-language Italian slasher. The lone “black guy” in this case is James Sampson, who plays Willy the janitor (pre-dating The Simpsons by a few years), a kindly old man who appears on screen for less than 10 minutes, but he’s there when it counts at the end to put a cap in the killer’s ass. Or head. Whatever.
Though he seems to be a simple-minded custodian, Willy just might be the smartest black character in any ’80s slasher. He’s introduced early in the film, and once the first body turns up, he gets the hell outta Dogde and doesn’t return until the last five minutes. Give that man an NAACP Image Award!
What happens during his absence is actually quite entertaining — Stage Fright being one of the best slashers of the era — as an escaped mental patient dons an oversized owl’s head to stalk a group of thespians rehearsing an (intentionally?) hilariously bad play titled The Night Owl. The play is an erotic musical about — you guessed it — a killer in an oversized owl’s head and features terrible, Solid Gold -style ’80s dance and, inexplicably, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike playing a saxophone.
Once they realize that they’re locked inside the theater with the killer, they panic, and although they outnumber him seven to one, they can’t manage to just stick together and fend him off. Instead, they’re picked off in typical (yet still enjoyable) slasher manner. Over-the-top kills and the inherent campiness of pretentious actors being hunted by a giant owl make this a winner even before bro’man Willy puts the icing on the cake.