***1/2 (out of 5)
May 9, 2014
Minnie Driver as KYLIE SWANSON
Meat Loaf as ROGER MACCALL
Allie MacDonald as CAMILLA SWANSON
Douglas Smith as BUDDY SWANSON
Kent Nolan as JOEL HOPTON
Brandon Uranowitz as ARTIE GETZ
Ephraim Ellis as SAM BROWNSTEIN
Studio: Entertainment One
Directed by: Jerome Sable
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I don’t want to sound like a hipster douchebag, but if you don’t like “Stage Fright,” you probably don’t get it.
That’s not meant to be an insult. It’s okay not to get it. To really internalize “Stage Fright,” you have to have a love for crappy 80s slasher movies and at least a history of some sort in musical theater. That doesn’t mean you have to have a house decorated in Jason Voorhees hockey masks and have spent time working on Broadway. You just have to enjoy the corniness of the genre and at least performed a bit in high school.
And it doesn’t hurt to have attended camp as a kid… hopefully not with a murdering psychopath, though.
“Stage Fright” sends up both apparently unrelated genres and mixes them together perfectly. The story follows a group of high school kids at a drama camp, preparing to put on a Broadway-scale production. To save the camp from bankruptcy, they decide to perform “The Haunting at the Opera,” which had been performed ten years previously after which the lead Broadway diva (Minnie Driver) was brutally murdered.
Of course, in true egomaniacal fashion, the director decides to re-imagine the performance with a Kabuki theater look to it. Camilla (Allie MacDonald ), the daughter of the murdered diva who also works at the camp in the kitchen, sneaks into tryouts and lands a part. However, with the return of the performance is the return of killing as a psychopath dressed in a Kabuki mask starts to murder the cast and crew.
Embarking on a production like “Stage Fright” can be a dangerous task. Deconstruction movies are a delicate breed because if care isn’t taken, the film can become an unintentional spoof, which isn’t much fun for anyone. Fortunately, “Stage Fright” avoids this by delivering a film that works both as a musical and as an authentic slasher. It doesn’t wink and nod at the audience but rather lets things play out, sometimes quite awkwardly, in the spirit of the original genres.
Because of this, you’ll see plenty of cliche 80s slasher tropes, like the summer camp setting, the mousy-yet-beautiful teenage girl in the lead, the masked psychopath and plenty of creative kills. Taken outside of the genre, these are hackneyed and a result of poor writing. However, put in a film that is paying homage to this genre, they work. The movie even manages to bring in more modern elements of horror fiction, like the death metal internal monologue of the killer which feels like it’s paying homage to material like “Repo: The Genetic Opera.”
And as a musical, it actually works. Don’t expect to see any Academy Award nominations for the soundtrack. This isn’t “Frozen,” and it certainly isn’t “Les Misérables.” However, the songs are clever and fun, with tongue-in-cheek references that remind us this is a send up made with love.
“Stage Fright” might not spawn a new series of masked killer movies, but it certainly shows its adoration for them throughout the movie. It also has a beat, and you can dance to it.