Movie Review: “Stage Fright” takes a stab at the slasher musical genre

ImageIt would have been too much to expect Jerome Sable’s “Stage Fright” to live
up to its positively giddy first 15 minutes. But sooner or later, the gore was
coming to the fore of this blend of backstage musical, and “Scream 1, 2, 3 4.”
The fun just bleeds out of it.
Opening night for the musical “Haunting of the Opera” is marred when the star
(Minnie Driver) is brutally butchered in her dressing room by a killer wearing
the “Ghost of the Opera” mask and cowled cape.
But ten years later, Camilla (Allie MacDonald), the daughter of that star
hasn’t forgotten Mom’s singing credo — “All of life’s a song, so sing with all
your heart!” It’s just that standing out at the Center Stage summer camp for the
performing arts is going to be tough.
Busloads of singing, primping divas — some of them girls — show up at “the
place where we can be ourselves, at least for once a year!”
They sing through the list of nasty nicknames they get from bullies and
lament their lot in life — in song.

“I got beaten up a dozen times, just for singing Stephen Sondheim!”
Sam (Ephraim Ellis) croons, “I’m GAY, I’m gay, but not in that way.” He’s just “gay for musicals.”

Ex-producer Roger McCall (Meat Loaf) runs the camp. His only hope for holding off the creditors? Getting the kids to revive that “Haunting” show of long ago, with wunderkind director Artie Getz (Brandon Uranowitz) staging it as a kabuki musical.

Camilla? She knows she could be a star, just like mom, if she can win the
lead role. But she’s not even enrolled at Center Stage. She and her twin brother (Douglas Smith) are stuck in the kitchen, cooking for all the Broadway brats.

But Camilla is fated for that role — Sofia. And as the kids storm through
rehearsals, getting ready for their “Limelight” showcase performance, somebody is watching, sharpening his knives and readying his own repeat performance.

The body count is strictly routine, but Sable does his best to keep “show
must go on” camp element in the mix. That side of things — gay jokes, divas tossing tantrums, the lecherous director’s casting couch — is supposed to produce the laughs. But after that promising opening, those laughs are few and far between.

“Why am I even TALKING to you? You’re just an…ALTO!”
The cast is bland, the voices far too thin to have any pretensions of
Broadway. So that just leaves us with a horror film, an Axl Rose-sound-alike screeching through murders set to a heavy metal beat. “Break a leg!” he cracks.
“Nailed it” is the punch line to another murder.

There’s promise, here — in the goofy improvisations the cast attempts when the night becomes a fiasco — “The more that goes wrong, the more we need for the show to go on!”
But opening night never lives up to those opening minutes. As horror musicals go, “Stage Fright” is never more than an out-of-town tryout.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: R for bloody horror violence, language and some sexual
references

Cast: Meat Loaf, Minnie Driver, Allie MacDonald, Brandon Uranowitz

Credits: Written and directed, music and lyrics by Jerome Sable. A
Magnolia/Magnet release.

Running time: 1:28

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