3.5 Stars  1987/15/96m

“When the music stops, the nightmare begins…”

A.k.a. Deadly Possession / Symphony of Evil

Director: Craig Lahiff / Writers: Craig Lahiff & Terry Jennings / Cast: Penny Cook, Arna-Maria Winchester, Liddy Clark, Olivia Hamnett, Patrick Frost.

Body Count: 5

An impressive minor Australian film originally made for a cinema release but ending up premiering on TV instead. A student of music at an exclusive conservatory is attacked in her apartment and thrown out of a window, surviving for the time being but later being murdered in her hospital bed before she can communicate vital clues to her would-be saviour and subsequent prime suspect.

Said suspects ex-wife – a classmate of the deceased – becomes entangled in the mystery and then obsessed with solving it, this finding herself next in line for stalkage as the maniac in a creepy plastic mask begins cropping up in her life. Because of its final televisual resting place, there’s not much grue here but many cues are taken from Halloween and it emulates some of those spookier moments to great effect, with the killer loitering outside the heroine’s room and stalking her and her friend at the opera!

A minimal cast roster confines all possible suspects and after the initial killing it’s a long time before the next murder but the length chase finale is excellent and confirms the film’s slasher movie ancestry, which it shies away from in the first two thirds in favour of character building and the Murder She Wrote-style sleuthing.

Coda (we’re told a musical term for the conclusion of a composition – la-de-da!) makes a lot of good use out of its intense classical soundtrack, from the metronome on the opening credits and is complimented further by lush photography and intelligent direction during the action scenes. About the only thing that prevents it from advancing further up the star-scale is the overlong mid-section and its preliminary reluctance to blend in with its generic habitat and consequential low body count, which could have been assisted by offing a couple of extra students halfway through.

Nevertheless, like its chosen musical accompaniment, this is a delicate and handsome piece of film.

Blurb-of-interest: Olivia Hamnett played Kate Peterson, the looney-tunes doctor, in Prisoner: Cell Block H.

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