If you ever imagined the cast of Glee massacred in a style similar to Friday the 13th then Jerome Sable’s Stage Fright is probably the film for you, combining musical theatre and horror with occasionally effective results. While the sharp humour of its first 30 minutes struggle to be sustained throughout the rest of the flick, its welcome supporting turns from ‘Meat Loaf’ and Minnie Driver and parodist tone sold me from the first flamboyant ensemble song.
Stage Fright centres on Allie Macdonald and Douglas Smith as orphan siblings Camila and Buddy, muddling through life as live –in kitchen workers at Center stage performing – arts summer camp run by ex-Broadway producer Roger (Meat Loaf). Boasting a hidden singing talent Camilla sneaks into the auditions winning the leading role in production “The Haunting of the Opera” – the last role that her mother played before she was murdered in her dressing room. As Camilla dodges challenges from jealous classmates and the advances of sleazy director Artie (Brandon Uranowitz), ominous incidents around the camp grow more and more frequent but are swept under the rug as the show must go on! Especially as a prominent Broadway critic is reviewing the opening night.
The songs by Sable and collaborator Eli Batalion are hilarious in their aping of Andrew Lloyd Webber, while the constant in – jokes sending up musical theatre are a joy to behold, from re – staging the classic opera in feudal Japan to the unbridled optimism of the camps students. A diversion from traditional musical theatre to screechy 80s hair metal via the kabuki killer also raised the roof with Frightfest audiences but Sable’s tonal change from camp musical theatre parody to straight slasher pastiche halfway through the film proves to be one of the films most disappointing features, with the two elements rarely combining effectively. While references from Dario Argento’s Terror at the Opera (1987) to Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) add a fun throwback element it is mere window dressing, as the film could have done with a re –write or two before taking it to the stage, tightening up the plot of the convoluted third act and adding a little more zip to proceedings.
From its audience pleasing opening disclaimer, to its punchlines and musical numbers Stagefright fortunately still has the potential to become a cult classic on VOD despite being a relatively average flick in both the camps of musical theatre and horror pastiche, with just enough ‘cheese’ to pull you through. Yet, if Evil Dead can be commissioned as a stage musical, here’s hoping Stagefright could hopefully inspire filmmakers to dip their toes in the huge potential of the horror – musical. A dame can dream…
Director: Jerome Sable
Cast: Minnie Driver, Meat Loaf, Allie MacDonald, Douglas Smith, Kent Nolan
Runtime: 89 mins