Joe D'Amato served as the film's producer. It was Soavi's first feature film as director; he had previously worked as an assistant director for Joe D'Amato, Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava and had previously directed the music video "The Valley" for Argento's Phenomena as well as the documentary Dario Argento's World of Horror. General reception towards the film has been positive, and over the years has achieved a cult following.
Late at night inside a theater, a troupe of actors and crew consisting of the director Peter, Alicia, Mark, Sybil, Betty, Corrine, Laurel, Danny, Brett, and Ferrari are rehearsing a musical about a fictional mass murderer known as the Night Owl. When Alicia sprains her ankle, she and Betty sneak out of rehearsal for medical assistance, the closest being a mental hospital. When speaking to the psychiatrist, Betty notices an imprisoned patient named Irving Wallace, a former actor gone insane who committed a killing spree. Unbeknownst to any of them, Wallace killed one of the attendants with a syringe and snuck out of the asylum to hide inside Betty's car.
Upon returning, Peter fires Alicia for leaving during the rehearsal. Outside, Betty returns to the car only to be murdered by Wallace with a pickaxe. Moments later, Alicia finds her body and contacts the police. The body is removed and two officers are stationed outside the premises.
Meanwhile, Peter creates an idea by altering the play's script; he renames the show's antagonist to Irving Wallace instead of an ambiguous killer, and insists that everyone (including rehired Alicia) stay the night to begin immediate rehearsals with the new material. The group reluctantly agrees to stay with the promise of additional cash, and Corrine hides the theater's exit key. While changing her costume, Laurel is stalked by a shadowy figure who she thought to be Brett. Brett then stays behind to search for his costume, not noticing Wallace who's donning the theater's owl costume behind him.
Peter shoots a scene with Corrine, and Wallace appears in the costume to strangle her before stabbing her to death. Without the key's whereabouts, the group begins to panic, and the killer disconnects the phone lines to prevent them from contacting the officers. While the group tries to find an escape route, Ferrari is stabbed by Wallace, who hangs his body upon being found by the group.
While Peter and Danny leave the group inside a room to search for the killer, Laurel notices Wallace outside trying to open the door and the group barricades it. The killer then breaks the window to grab Mark before killing him with a power drill through the door. Peter and Danny return, and, upon witnessing Mark's murder, they plan to stick together and defend themselves.
While the group moves on to the stage, Peter notices the killer up on the upper catwalks and goes after him, while asking the others to corner him too. Laurel leaves Alicia behind after accidentally knocking her out. Peter then hacks up the missing Brett (who is donning a similar owl costume and is unknowingly tied up) with an axe, thinking he was Wallace. Soon, Sybil is pulled down by the real killer and disemboweled. Danny immediately goes down and is also killed by Wallace with a chainsaw. Cornering Peter and Laurel, Wallace wounds Laurel and cuts off Peter's arm before the chainsaw runs out of fuel. The killer takes the axe and ultimately decapitates the director.
Alicia wakes up and finds a wounded Laurel hiding in the shower room. While she hides, Wallace grabs Laurel and stabs her before dragging her body away. Alicia arms herself and searches for the key, only to see Wallace sitting next to the group's bodies placed around the stage and covered with feathers.
Underneath the stage, she successfully finds the key and defends herself against Wallace before going up to the catwalks. Just as Wallace corners her, she sprays a fire extinguisher into his face, knocking him over and leaving him hanging onto a loose cable. After the cable is severed and the killer falls, Alicia makes her way to the door, but Wallace attacks again. She dumps a burning bin onto him, igniting him, then escapes the theater and tells the police about the events. The next morning, Alicia returns to the theater to find her missing watch, just before an unmasked Wallace prepares to attack her. Willy shoots him in the head and he rambles about getting him "right in-between in the eyes" while a disturbed Alicia walks out. Wallace then looks at the camera and smirks, apparently having survived from his headshot.Barbara Cupisti as Alicia
David Brandon as Peter
Mary Sellers as Laurel
Robert Gligorov as Danny
Jo Ann Smith as Sybil
Giovanni Lombardo Radice as Brett
Martin Philips as Mark
Piero Vida as Ferrari
Loredana Parrella as Corinne
Ulrike Schwerk as Betty
Domenico Fiore as Police Chief
Mickey Knox as Old Cop
Michele Soavi as Young Cop
James Sampson as Willy (as James E. R. Sampson)
Clain Parker as Irving Wallace
Luigi Montefiori as Masked Irving Wallace (uncredited)
The film has received a favorable reception. AlloCiné's spectators gave at the film 3.8/5 positives critics on 87 reviews. AllMovie called the film "a good example of how style can triumph over substance in a genre effort", praising Michele Soavi's direction.