Stage Fright: Film Review

Stage Fright Still Mini Driver - H 2014
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Stage Fright Still Mini Driver - H 2014

Both scares and laughs are in short supply in this genre mashup.

A masked killer decimates the population of a musical theater camp in Jerome Sable's campy horror musical.

Playing like a very special slasher film-themed episode of Glee, Stage Fright mixes horror and Broadway–style show tunes to decidedly mixed results. While this sort of stylistic hybrid has worked in the past -- The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise being two eminent examples -- Jerome Sable’s directorial debut lacks both the anarchic wit and musical chops to make it any more than the sort of horror film curiosity best seen on late night cable television. Despite Meat Loaf’s hammily entertaining turn as the desperate owner of a musical theater summer camp, the film fails to live up to its obvious inspirations.

The opening sequence features a brief appearance by Minnie Driver as a Broadway diva who gets stabbed to death by a masked killer in her dressing room while she’s performing in a lavish musical called The Haunting of the Opera (any similarity to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mega-musical being strictly intentional). Cut to 10 years later, when the actress’ daughter Camilla (Allie MacDonald) and her brother Buddy (Douglas Smith) are working in the kitchen of Center Stage, a summer camp for aspiring young musical theater creators and performers run by her mother’s former producer, Roger (Meat Loaf).

In an effort to replenish the camp’s sagging coffers, Roger comes up with the idea of reviving the fateful musical, to be reconceived kabuki-style by the ambitious young director Artie (Brandon Uranowitz). Camilla, who’s inherited her mother’s talent, manages to snare the lead role, and it isn’t long before another masked killer, a heavy metal-type who plays a mean guitar solo in between his butcherings, starts decimating the camp’s population.

References to such horror film touchstones as the Friday the 13th, Halloween and Scream franchises abound in this derivative effort, which even includes a bucket of blood falling on a hapless onstage victim a la Carrie. Director-screenwriter Sable, who also co-wrote the score with Eli Batalion, proves ill-equipped to handle both the numerous musical sequences -- Meat Loaf’s getting to briefly power through a few tunes is a pleasurable exception -- and the gory-but-less-than-terrifying killings whose frequency escalates as the film lurches towards its big reveal. While the screenplay features no shortage of -- pardon the pun -- campy humor involving the show biz-crazed youngsters desperate for stardom, most of it falls thuddingly flat.

Its cleverly punning title notwithstanding, Stage Fright fails to deliver the goods.

Opens May 7 (Magnet Releasing)

Production: Serendipity Point Films

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

Director/screenwriter: Jerome Sable

Producers: Ari Lantos, Jonas Bell Pasht

Executive producer: Mark Musselman

Director of photography: Bruce Chun

Editors: Nicholas Musurca, Christopher Donaldson, Lisa Grootenboer

Production designer: Oleg Savytski

Costume designer: Michael Ground

Music & lyrics: Jerome Sable, Eli Batalion

Rated R, 89 minutes