Monday, January 12, 2015

The Music of the Fright

It may have been suggested, at least once or twice, that I’m something of a musical theater fan. Perhaps it’s the stack of Playbills hung on my childhood bedroom wall, the pile of VHS tapes my pals and I used to make in high school featuring us performing Broadway showtunes, or the fact that the best energy boost I’ve ever had in a half marathon is hearing Defying Gravity blasting just half a mile before the finish line.

Yes, I love musicals. I’d probably sell my soul or at the very least, a cat in return for a good singing voice but as I’ve yet to find the right market, I instead comfort myself listening to others. When the world is great--I mean, REALLY great--I find that in a horror movie.

Quick Plot: After a rousing opening night of a new Broadway musical called The Haunting of the Opera (sound familiar?), the leading lady (Minnie Driver, who might have had something to do with that thing that sounds familiar) is brutally slaughtered by a mystery man wearing her co-star’s mask. 

Ten years later, her twin children have grown into attractive cooks at Center Stage, a theater camp run by their mother’s boyfriend and former producer Roger (also, Meat Loaf). Camilla has grown into a beautiful and talented soprano who dreams of following in her late mother’s footsteps, while brother Buddy is still embittered by the entire musical community. 

As a last ditch effort to find some profit, Roger decides to revive The Haunting of the Opera as the summer’s big showcase. Surely nothing can go wrong with such a controversial decision, right?

Written and directed by newcomer Jerome Sable, Stage Fright is pretty much everything I could ask for in a movie, missing only a few evil children and plate of nachos. From the opening text informing us that the movie is sort of based on true events (just like Return of the Living Dead) to the followup that "the musical numbers will be performed exactly as they occurred," I squealed with glee.

(not THAT kind of glee)

This movie was made for me. 

Was it the fact that one song lyric involved a kid getting bullied for singing Sondheim? That the totem poles at this summer camp featured the drama/comedy masks? That one song had the faintest touch of a Jesus Christ Superstar salute? 

I don't know that Stage Fright will appeal to hardcore horror fans or those who prefer, well, another theater-set slasher called Stage Fright. But this film delighted me, and as much as I'd like to think Jerome Sable Inception'ed his way into my dreams to give me exactly what I want, I'll still say that I think this will please you too.

High Points
As someone who has worked backstage in a fair amount of college theater performances, believe me when I say that nothing is more annoying than hearing the actors practice their vocal warmups. Hence, the fact that Stage Fright uses that moment to give us such a juicy murder made me far more happier than it probably should have

The end credits song includes lyrics thanking the audience for staying so late. Then they break into a lecture about piracy. ALL IN ROCK OPERA FORMAT

Did I mention how happy this movie made me?

Low Points
I'm a stickler for detail, so it bothered me slightly that we were never informed who took over for a key actor in the big show. Understudies need to rehearse, you know

Lessons Learned
Altos just don’t understand

The first rule of theater camp: abandon all ye cell phones

You can't change the past, but you can make a musical

Look, I understand that a horror musical with original showtunes might not be for everybody, but good golly was this the film for me. I adored Stage Fright and would eagerly donate to kickstart a sequel. Give me more I say! 


  1. I didn't really think I would get into this one very much, but as it turned out...I did! I think it will surprise a lot of people if they give it a fair chance to do so. Great review as always!

  2. Really enjoyed this one. Great review! My wife flipped out over Stage Fright as well. Definitely a buy for us.

  3. You're right, this movie was MADE for you. It should have been titled "Emily: The Movie".

    I thought the lead girl was great. The movie lacked visual moodiness at times and some of the supporting characters grated, but I really liked it and there were some clever bits (like the aforementioned totem pole number).