Film Review: Stage FrightThis twee yet gory musical-horror mash-up is just a horror.
An absolutely insane mash-up of “Glee,” “Smash,” “Camp” and the ultra-violent slasher genre, Stage Fright takes place at Center Stage, a theatrical youth camp, where owner Roger (Meat Loaf) is trying to mount a production of The Haunting of the Opera, which, yes, is a rip-off of that famous Phantom. This show's history is troublesome, for on its Broadway opening night a decade ago, its leading lady (Minnie Driver, who was also in the Phantom film, you—and poor she—may recall) was murdered in her dressing room.
Roger, who was its then-producer, adopted her children, Camilla (Allie MacDonald) and Buddy (Douglas Smith), who now work for him at the camp. Camilla, whose mother's talent flows in her veins, determines to star in the revival, but faces all kinds of competitive jealousy, as well as a mysterious masked killer, eerily reminiscent of her mom's killer, who is bloodily picking off the show's cast and creatives one by one.
Low camp doesn't come any lower than in this confection from the sickeningly fey, shamelessly exploitative and derivative mind of writer-director Jerome Sable. To be effective, any comedy must be somehow rooted, however loosely, in some kind of reality, but Sable's general mindlessness pays this no mind whatsoever. Hence, you have children mixed together with 20-somethings at the camp, who tastelessly sing of being gay and not getting aroused looking at girls, and sleazy director Artie (Brandon Uranowitz) deciding to stage his show Kabuki-style, adding an element of racial offensiveness to this morass. Artie heartlessly uses his power to try to get into Camilla's scanties, but you might even feel pity for him as you witness the horrifically savage end he meets at the hands of the mystery killer, who resembles a member of the band KISS, accompanied by heavy-metal music, which one supposes, in this twee world of Sondheim and Rent, signifies pure evil, nothing less. As offensive as Sable's idea of wit is, he surpasses himself with the gore, starting things off with a shot of a knife plunged directly into Driver's throat in close-up.
And we haven't even mentioned what passes for "music" here, combined with Sable's god-awful lyrics. You want to cover your ears, but, like an aural car accident, attention must somehow be paid, as when Roger pleads for the campers not to abandon him, although they are all terrified by the murders. "Do you remember the first time you ever saw a musical play? The first time you ever got swept away? No matter what bad stuff happened that day? That's why theatre has been around so long. That's why we need musical song."
The entire cast—including a noxious little girl with a lisp who, of course, is given "narcissistic" to say—sinks without a trace into this dung heap, although MacDonald's considerable prettiness offers some visual appeal. Again, that's visual, for, typical of the haplessness of this enterprise, not a single person onscreen can actually sing. From her toneless wailing to whatever the hell Meat Loaf thinks he's doing besides totally embarrassing himself, this is, beyond a doubt, the most unmusical musical ever perpetrated on film.
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