Could you handle mixing doses of singing and stabbing? Stage Fright says Yes!, both in song and murder. And it takes both seriously – this is Glee meets Halloween and even the poster is a throwback to a time that never was.
At its core Stage Fright is a spoof of the theatre industry. The characters, jokes and killer’s motivation are all about the obnoxious and superficial auras of the stage. Almost all the action focuses around a summer camp where teens and kids with a knack for performance arts congregate, though that is a liberal interpretation. These thespians don’t do much except sing and plan the end-of-camp play. They may as well be down the road from me, for all I can tell. The camp is run by a former Broadway producer (Meatloaf!) who left the city after his star was brutally murdered ten years earlier, detailed in the excellently brutal opening scene. He adopted that star’s two young children, Camilla and Buddy, who now are ten years older and working in the camp kitchen.
Camilla inherited her mom’s singing talent and manages to secure top spot on the camp’s play, which is the same play her mom dazzled in just before she was murdered. This obviously leads to more murder – nothing gets slasher psycho juices going like anniversaries. But first we will go through the elaborate post-title intro song for the camp, a classy ensemble piece full of jokes, innuendo and cheek – the stuff of great musicals. I could go on, but instead here is a 5-minute long horror musical film by Jerome Sable, the guy who wrote the songs.
If you did not watch the video, here’s the summary: it’s awesome. Stage Fright‘s musical numbers are of the same caliber and do not disappoint. Nor do the slasher elements: the killings are brutal, but almost farcically over the top, which is exactly what fans would want. Certainly the only reason to be offended by this mixture is if you REALLY loathe either genre, but in that case you’d hate Stage Fright even if it was good.
Sadly, Stage Fright isn’t. The problem is that it can’t figure out how to mix these genres properly, so it simply doesn’t bother. After the shocking opening scene, there isn’t much killing until quite a bit into the film and then again at the end. After setting up such high expectations, the movie under-delivers – it easily has one of the lowest body counts I’ve ever seen in a slasher. The musical numbers are a little more frequent, but eventually peter out. While the individual pieces are brilliant, the movie fails to weave them together and instead serves up uneven, sloppy doses.
What starts off well ends rather flatly, despite a few graphic scenes at the end. Ultimately Stage Fright seemed more eager to make fun of theatre antics than play on the strengths of the two genres it combines. It’s a missed opportunity, because if I learned anything from this it’s that musical and slashers can play nice together. If they ever make a Scream stage show, I’m there.
Last Updated: July 4, 2014