92 minutes | MPAA rating: R
“Stage Fright” tries to meld two radically different genres — the slasher film and the summer camp musical.
As you’d expect, the results are pretty schizoid.
Writer/director Jerome Sable’s horror-comedy begins with the premiere performance of a Broadway musical called “The Haunting of the Opera” (apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber). Leading lady Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) slays the opening-night crowd, only to be herself slain backstage by a masked, knife-wielding psycho. Her young son and daughter, Buddy and Camilla, barely escape with their lives.
Now, a decade later, the teenaged Buddy (Douglas Smith) and Camilla (Allie MacDonald) work in the kitchen of the summer musical youth camp run by their mother’s old producer and one-time lover, Roger McCall (“Rocky Horror” alum Meat Loaf).
For years Roger has dreamed of proving that “Haunting of the Opera” is not a cursed production. His idea is to have the summer camp kids revive the show. He’ll invite a big Broadway producer to see the production and then…who knows?
Meanwhile Camilla, still haunted by her mother’s death, decides to audition for the female lead. Buddy tries to talk her out of it, but to no avail. Well, she gets the role, but then folk start dying. Looks like the phantom is back.
The first half of “Stage Fright” is plucked directly from TV’s “Glee.” The kids arrive on busses singing about how musical theater camp is the only time in their lives when they can truly be themselves. Most of the year they’re bullied by others or trying to hide their musical theater obsession — if not their gayness — from their parents and peers.
This number — written by Sable in faux Lloyd Webber style — is actually pretty clever,
The problem is, we’ve seen all of this before, and Sable is unable to make his characters rise above the cliched material (although leading lady MacDonald does establish an enticing screen presence).
In the movie’s second half, the masked killer gets to work. He sings while he slashes — his songs are all in a throbbing heavy metal style.
“Stage Fright” may be trolling for laughs, but its violence is graphic and sadistically grotesque…not sure that it’s appropriate for young musical theater geeks.
If this were a real Broadway musical, it would close out of town.
| Robert W. Butler