May 9, 2014 (U.S. Theatrical)
Jerome Sable, Eli Batalion
Minnie Driver as Kylie Swanson
Meat Loaf as Roger McCall
Allie MacDonald as Camilla Swanson
Douglas Smith as Buddy Swanson
Kent Nolan as Joel Hopton
Stage Fright is a good little slasher film that is satisfying because many of the lame-o people we hope will get slashed actually do.
If musical theater camps such as the one depicted in the 2014 musical Slasher film Stage Fright actually exist, then the question is not why it took so long for a horror movie to be made on one of these places, but how in the hell there haven’t been mass murders every time one opens it’s doors. You think Judy from Sleepaway Camp is bad? Just imagine a Summer camp full of Judys who think they can sing. Years ago Kylie Swanson (Minni Driver) starred in the play “The Haunting of the Opera”, and was poised to be a long running and smashing success. The theatrical run is cut short after only one night, unfortunately, when someone wearing the mask of the “Opera Ghost” character brutally stabs Kylie to death in her dressing room while her young daughter dances around on the stage below, dreaming of being a star herself.
Ten years after the slaying of Kylie her children are working in the kitchen of a musical theater summer camp, though they have both sworn off of performing because of the bad memories, but when the school decides to put on “The Haunting of the Opera” Kabuki style Kylie’s daughter Camilla (Allie MacDonald) can take it no more. It’s against the rules for employees to try out for the camp plays, but Camilla sneaks her way in, and her talent gets her cast as the lead. Just like her mother. This isn’t the only similarily to that dreadful time years ago, as the opera ghost mask is back and people start dropping like flies left and right.
Stage Fright is an 80’s-style slasher film, with musical numbers thrown in for good measure. This is kind of like “Fame” or “Glee” meets an old-school slice’em dice’em starring Jamie Lee Curtis. Thankfully this is not one of those films that has ALL singing and no spoken dialogue, which is how I was able to avoid jumping off the roof. Instead the film is mostly dialogue, with musical numbers splashed about – mostly in the context of the musical being produced by characters in the film. The musical numbers are no worse than those found in similar non-horror movies – well, I take that back. Some musicals have great numbers in them (The Sound of Music, for example) while others are barely passable (i.e. Everything starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funichello, Elvis Presley movies, etc.) The numbers in Stage Fright are no worse than that last group.
The horror in this one earns a whole hearted “not bad”, maybe even surpassing that due to the similarities to some eighties horror favorites like Prom Night or Curtains. So many of the eighties classics are not particularly great, but they have a certain quality that gives them longevity and elevates them to the status of “beloved”. Jamie Lee Curtis herself contributed greatly to the overall appeal of a lot of them, but the format we’ve come to know and love where a slasher with a story of a past wrong comes to the present and picks off teens one by one as bloodily as possible, all leading to the grand reveal and a possible twist – what’s not to like about that? The best thing aboutStage Fright is the adherence to the 80’s formula, well except they added singing. At least in Prom Night we only saw Jamie Lee dance.
Maybe the formula isn’t the best thing about this film actually, as the performances are actually really good here, and starting the action off with an Academy Award nominee (Driver) is a nice touch. They learned their lessons well from Scream and the play that film got by starting things out with the intriguing Drew Barrymore, and that works equally well this time around. Even the singing itself is not terrible, and the musical elements are woven in in such a way that it’s actually not too distracting. Between the straight performances, the campy performances and the uber-energetic Meat Loaf as camp leader Roger McCall, the performances work to enhance the film rather than distract from it.
Regarding gore, this film earns another enthusiastic “not bad”… we’re not talking ground-breaking practical effects ala Tom Savini or anything, but definitely better than most of the gore effects in the Jamie Lee Curtis films of old (aka Prom Night, Terror Train, The Fog). The blood runs plentiful and the kills are satisfying, even a bit brutal. Once again, we have a situation where this film element enhances the story rather than detracts from it. The gore effects don’t take center state, but their not lame either.
It’s the story of Stage Fright that is the most interesting, especially for fans of the 80s formula. There’s a troubled girl, a tragic past, a wanton killer and a trick ending that is not a surprise, yet still manages to be surprising. There’s a lot going on in this film, especially considering the musical theater camp and the singing, and it pulls together enjoyably.
Stage Fright is a good little slasher film that is satisfying because many of the lame-o people we hope will get slashed actually do. So many of these “campers” are just terrible, in the way thatSleepaway Camp’s Judy is terrible – yet Judy is also one of the most remembered mean girls from the 80s. This film is old-school 80s slasher fare with singing, which does cut down on the scare factor a bit but still is not overly distracting. Overall, we’re going to stick with a solid “not bad”.