STAGE FRIGHT (2014)
So, what do you get when you combine TV’s popular quasi-musical show Glee with elements of Phantom Of The Opera and a traditional slasher flick?… apparently writer/director Jerome Sable felt the need to find out and thus we have Stage Fright, which is exactly that as a masked killer stalks a musical theater camp.
Canadian film opens with Broadway star Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) performing in a production of The Haunting Of The Opera only to be gruesomely slain after the show in her dressing room by a killer wearing the costume of the musical’s “opera ghost.” We cut to ten years later where Kylie’s two children Camilla (Allie MacDonald) and Buddy (Douglas Smith) are working as cooks at a musical theater camp run by Haunting’s former producer and Kylie’s former flame Roger (Meat Loaf), who has taken care of the kids since Kylie’s death. Roger, in a bid to return to Broadway, decides to have the campers stage a revival of The Haunting Of The Opera, but done in Japanese Kabuki style by it’s pretentious director Artie (Brandon Uranowitz). As Roger schemes to lure a big time agent to see the revival, a killer dressed in the show’s Kabuki mask and cape starts to stalk and slaughter the cast and crew. With Camilla being the play’s lead, and already dealing with a lecherous director and a rival diva, will she share her mother’s fate?
There is definitely some fun to be had here, though not nearly as much as there should be, with the potential of a slasher/musical. Sable, who also co-wrote the music with Eli Battalion, creates something that borders on mess as much as it does mash-up, as the film really struggles to be both traditional summer camp slasher and musical. The mix of genres is uneven, as once the slasher elements go full swing, the musical elements become more sporadic as the film progresses. There are a few cast numbers in the beginning, then it seems there are only snippets of play rehearsals and one cast number halfway through with the all-out singing pretty much disappearing, save one brief number by our killer at the climax, with the only songs otherwise being in the actual play performance. It would have been less awkward and more consistent, if the cast members continued to burst out in song throughout, perhaps even as they were being gorily slain…or simply left the singing to the play performance sequences. Pick one, it’s very uneven. While on the subject of the songs, none of them are overly impressive, though the opening number is somewhat amusing, and certainly not very memorable. Horror-wise, there is little suspense, but there are some inventive and very gory kills and it seems like in the last act, filmmaker Sable decided to stop having fun with his goofy premise and actually try to make a more serious slasher. It’s not totally unsuccessful, as some of the scenes are effective and the end reveals work in the slasher tradition, but the more serious moments of the masked maniac backstage and Camilla’s confrontation with him are offset with the sillier antics going on on-stage, as the show falls apart in front of a full audience. It’s very uneven and these scenes don’t complement or properly contrast each other like they should to make it really work. Again, some of it does, especially the slasher stuff, but Sable seems less skilled with mixing in the musical/comedy elements more deftly. Maybe he should have stuck with a straight slasher with a musical theater camp setting and let it play out even more as a mirror of the Phantom-like play then it already does, somewhat. Other than that, the film is competently made and technically sound. Sable has some amusing ideas, a nice visual style and a sense of whimsy, but just needs to work harder on better organizing them into a more consistent flick. Uneven tone is this flick’s worst enemy.
Working in Jerome Sable’s favor though, is a good cast who have a fun time with the uneven material. Allie MacDonald is a pretty girl-next-door type who makes a strong heroine and seems to have a good set of pipes. She is no stranger to musicals having starred in Score: A Hockey Musical and no stranger to horror having appeared in The Barrens and House At The End Of The Street with Jennifer Lawrence. She makes a good final girl and has a natural charm. Meat Loaf has a fun time as the sleazy, desperate Roger, who is far less concerned with his campers being murdered than he is with impressing a Broadway agent. Oddly enough he is given only a few short songs despite being a practical living legend as a singer, but does handle comedy well. Douglas Smith (Ouija) is good as Buddy, but really isn’t given much to do but look concerned, as his sister is the focus, and Driver is effective in what is basically a cameo. As for the rest, the supporting cast seems to be enjoying their roles and having a good time and it translates to screen and helps make this a bit more fun then it would have been.
So, there you have it. Stage Fright can be moderately fun, though it is really hindered by an uneven mix of the slasher and musical elements. There are some good gore effects along with some so-so songs and we do have a strong and adorable heroine and a fun turn from singer/actor Meat Loaf. The slasher portions are the stronger suit here and while it could have worked a lot better, it is a mildly amusing watch if you want something a little different and a little lighter then the normal horror fare. A mildly amusing diversion that’s not quite as clever as it wanted to be, but isn’t a complete failure either.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) meatloaves.