I was in my high school musicals.
There. I said it.
The greenfaced, scary looking, horror film loving ogre known as Trapjaw was not just in one musical….but 3! And guess what? I had a pretty good time in them as well. While the stage is quite serious, the backstage area is pretty much playing cards, getting into trouble, and learning how to interact with the fairer sex. We had a blast pretty much every year. It was fun.
Yes, there were those that took it too seriously. There were those that could only talk script. There were some oddball characters, but those oddballs could act or sing like nobody’s business. Chaperons were non existent and trouble was never far away.
Imagine my surprise that the film Stage Fright never really captures what it’s like to be in a musical, but turns out to be an interesting horror film nonetheless. The story is an amalgamation of multiple movies and genres, and it jumps around to each quite nicely. The actors are good, and the killer sings heavy metal music.
Stage Fright is a horror musical that focuses on the making of a musical. 8 year old Camilla (Allie MacDonald) is just setting her sights on one day following her Prima Donna mother Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) into theater life when Kylie is slain after opening night of The Haunting of the Opera. Camilla and her twin brother (Buddy, played by Douglas Smith) are then raised by the producer of the show (Meat Loaf).
The film fast forwards 10 years, and producer Roger (Meat Loaf) has fallen on hard times. He’s opened up a musical summer camp, and those (that just don’t quite fit in) flock to it each summer. Camilla and Buddy work as kitchen staff. Director Artie Getz (Brandon Uranowitz) announces this summer’s production will be A Haunting of the Opera, and this effects Buddy and Camilla differently. While Buddy is shaken, Camilla feels drawn toward the stage to reprise her mother’s final role.
While Black Swan investigated the stress that performers put upon themselves through the lens of a horror film, Stage Fright places those kids from High School Musical into a horror film to be tormented by an external force. It’s reminiscent of that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where a musical demon enchants everybody into musical numbers for the entire episode. The idea is great, and is quite fun. In fact, it’s like looking into infinity mirror. There are musicals inside musicals and held together by jazz hands. I sang my way to the bathroom at one point and wondered if I was the last in the chain, or if I was just a part of another musical.
The film tends to be a bit self deprecating to its cast (who fit their stereotypical roles here nicely). From there, it takes quite a few twists that reminded me of many other films. First of all, Camilla’s character arc is quite similar to Angela’s in Sleepaway Camp and Aerial’s in The Little Mermaid. Artie runs the camp production much like the Hollywood portrayed in Mulholland Drive. Ultimately, there is a creepy Hitchcock-ian story in there which was (brief, but) interesting that could have been fleshed out more. And, of course, we have a slasher film with a masked villain.
The killer in Stage Fright looks like the puppet from Saw climbed off his tricycle and started singing heavy metal (and not just any heavy metal…but 1970s heavy metal!). His weapon of choice is quite ingenious actually, and there are times that the singing works…and other times it doesn’t. There’s not many times that you get to see masked killers that speak (let alone sing), and there is a reason: It can come off goofy very easily. I liked the idea, but the execution left him feeling like a villain on Buffy. It’s not bad. It just doesn’t illicit nightmares.
Stage Fright is a pretty good film: It’s fun, and it’s an easy watch. I enjoyed the film immensely. I liked the cast a lot, and felt they did a great job with it. It has a few original ideas that it plays with, but, ultimately, it feels like a horror film folly. There’s a lot of flash, there are some fun jokes, and it’s hard not to have a hard time. It is definitely worth a look, and is a great date movie.