The debut feature film of Jerome Sable, Stage Fright (not to be confused with the 1950 Hitchcock thriller) is a musical horror film, a genre mixture that rarely occurs, but when it does can result in good or bad films. Films like Little Shop of Horrors and Repo: The Genetic Opera, have their fans, and I had fun with both, especially Little Shop, which is one of my favourite movies, so I thought it was worth giving this one a try.
A cast that features Meat Loaf and Minnie Driver, as well as a bunch of younger and less well-known acting talent, I was intrigued by the idea of a stage-school slasher musical. The opening of the film in which Minnie Driver as an up-and-coming stage performer, is butchered in her dressing room by a masked assailant, followed by a big campy musical number, ten years later, was fun, silly and a sign that this might just be the perfect mixture of gory over-the-top horror and camp musical fun. The story is a basic one, a summer school for wannabe actors, singers and dancers, is running their annual musical, this one in particular being the same one that Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) was performing in when she was slaughtered many years prior. We find out that Kylie’s son and daughter, Camilla and Buddy, work the kitchen of the school and are being looked after by the owner and manager of the camp, Roger McCall (Meat Loaf). When Camilla discovers Roger’s intentions to host the same show, “The Haunting at the Opera” (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s gonna sue somebody!) that her mother died during, she auditions to play the lead in it. We see, during all this theatre-based tom-foolery, that a rather angry villain is lurking in the dark corners and wings of the school, wearing the same mask as the person who killed Kylie Swanson in the film’s opening scenes. The remainder of the film plays out as you’d expect, a young girl playing the same part as her late-mother while being watched by someone who appears out to get her. Think Slaughter High mixed with a tone-deaf showing of Phantom of the Opera and you’d be somewhere close to knowing what to expect here.
The beginning portion of the film had promise, I thought it was going to be silly and fun, but as it went on I became a little bored and found that most of the jokes fell flat on their faces. It is a film that seems unsure of what it wants to be. It went from completely tongue-in-cheek comedy horror with songs, to being a bit monotonous and too predictable. It’s all very silly, and it’s also completely watchable, but I felt like it could have done much more with the setting, and the variety of potentially annoying-enough-to-be-violently-massacred characters on offer. The musical aspect isn’t used enough, and the songs that do get used become painfully repetitive and not-so-memorable. I liked the villain design, and I thought the concept was fun, but it missed more than it hit, and is not one of the better comedy based horror films I’ve seen lately.
The direction of the film was fine, and looked slick and polished, and the casting of Minnie Driver was good, though I was disappointed at how little she was in the film. Meat Loaf also threw himself into his part as the curious camp owner, Roger, and his scenes were the best in the film. The remainder of the cast weren’t terrible, but they didn’t really shine either. Allie MacDonald (House at the End of the Street) is decent as Camilla though. I found her likeable, and she did well to hold the film on her back as the main protagonist. I just felt like the potential of the film wasn’t met, and it could have been such a funny and grotesque little movie, but fell into mediocrity with its reluctance to embrace the absurdity that it promises.
Not bad then, but not great either. I recommend it to those who like slasher flicks, and horror comedy, because you might find more to love than I did. I wouldn’t say I regret watching the film though, just that I can’t see myself revisiting it in the future.