Jerome Sable brings together two unlikely genres in his musical slasher Stage Fright, a sometimes charming little film that sings its heart out and piles on the body count. And while the film does have moments of pure laughs mixed with plenty of the red stuff, it ultimately misses some major notes. In the film, a starry-eyed teenager, Camilla Swanson, wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a Broadway star, but once she lands the leading role in the play all hell breaks loose as she becomes terrorized by a blood-thirsty killer.
The problem with Stage Fright is that in its effort to be like so many other films, it never quite nails the two things it’s truly supposed to be—a horror movie musical. It’s neither a very good horror movie or a very good musical. The songs are few and far between, which is a good thing if you’re anything like me and would prefer the death count to be higher than the song count. But for anyone going in for a heavy dose of songs and jazz hands will probably walk away disappointed. That being said, the songs we do hear are pretty charming, providing a fun and often comical atmosphere that oddly enough fit quite well in the realm of horror.
On the horror side of things, Stage Fright does deliver some decent moments of gore and a pretty wicked looking killer that comes off like the Ozzy Osbourne of masked maniacs. I really liked the idea behind giving the killer a head-banging metal musical edge because it’s the perfect balance to the music heard from the snobby theater kids at the camp. The execution, on the other hand, wasn’t great. I’m not sure what it was but every time he opens his mouth to sing, it sounds like a dying cat—or maybe that’s just how you’re supposed to sing when you’re brutally murdering teens? It’s a fantastic idea that I’m sure a lot of people will get a kick out of, but for me it just didn’t work as much as I wanted it to.
The story itself is easy to figure out as you’ll probably uncover the big “twist” 20 minutes into the film. And that’s the problem with making a movie that’s supposed to play like a tribute to the classics because it never paves its own bloody path. Sure, the musical edge coupled with the slasher genre is quite unique but it’s just not enough to set this one apart from the rest.
Stage Fright will no doubt find an audience that adores it because it’s just one of those films that if it clicks for you, you’ll be more than willing to forgive it for its faults. It’s an extremely well shot indie effort from Sable with fantastic performances from the cast who not only look good singing, but they look good dying as well. It also introduces us to a pretty gnarly killer despite the fact that anytime he opens his mouth I wanted to rip my own ears off. I encourage you guys to give this one a shot if for no other reason than to see Meat Loaf being awesome.