Starry-eyed teenager Camilla Swanson wants to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a Broadway diva, but she's stuck working in the kitchen of a snobby performing arts camp. Determined to change her destiny, she sneaks in to audition for the summer showcase and lands a lead role in the play, but just as rehearsals begin, blood starts to spill, and Camilla soon finds herself terrified by the horror of musical theatre.
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is a unique film, and as such, I think I should tell you a few things about myself before I get into reviewing it. It's common knowledge that I am a horror movie fanatic, but I am also a big musical theater geek. I know every word to Jesus Christ Superstar
, I played the part of Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors
while in college, and I was a performer in a shadow cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
, a film which I have seen over 400 times. With all of that information in mind, it should come as no surprise that I think Stage Fright
begins with the murder of famous Broadway actress Kylie Swanson (Conviction
's Minnie Driver). Her children, Camilla (Allie MacDonald from House at the End of the Street
) and Buddy (Antiviral
's Douglas Smith), are taken in by Roger McCall (Meat Loaf from The Rocky Horror Picture Show
), Kylie's former producer who, ten years after her death, runs the Center Stage Camp for the Performing Arts, a summer camp for budding musical theater kids. Camilla has dreams of following in her mother's footsteps, but she and her brother are simply the kitchen cooks for the camp, forced to watch the campers perform in the productions each year. When it is announced that the camp is going to be performing "The Haunting of the Opera," the very musical which made her mother famous, Camilla sneaks into the auditions. She nails her tryout, but there is an obvious problem; she isn't a camper, she's a staff member. Director Artie (real-life Broadway star Brandon Uranowitz) gets around this by casting two girls in the lead: Camilla and her camp rival, Liz Silver (Melanie Leishman from "Todd and the Book of Pure Evil"). Artie uses the duplicitous casting to extort "favors" from the girls, but the production has bigger problems than a casting couch; cast and crew members are being murdered one by one, with Camilla seeming to be the ultimate target.
If the kids from "Glee" went to the high school from Prom Night
, the result would be Stage Fright
. Director Jerome Sable (who adapted Stage Fright
from his short "The Legend of Beaver Dam") is clearly a fan of the classic slasher films, yet the cast of Stage Fright
breaks into song every chance they get. The musical numbers coupled with the choreography of Paul Becker (no stranger to horror choreography with credits that include Cabin in the Woods
, The Wicker Man
, and Sucker Punch
) makes Stage Fright
an amusing little mash-up of two distinctly different types of movies. Stage Fright
hits all the stereotypes and tropes of each respective genre, creating a very purposeful parody of both.
The whole plot of Stage Fright
is a tribute to The Phantom of the Opera
, right down to the title of the play which the camp selects to perform, but the influence of classic films does not stop with that. There are a ton of fun and sneaky references to other movies in Stage Fright
; it's one of those movies that will be most enjoyed by loyal fans of horror movies and Hollywood musicals, because it contains nods to several films from both canons, both visually and musically. It's a bit like "The Simpsons" in that it gets funnier as the knowledge base of the viewer grows, and subsequent views will undoubtedly reveal even more sly little winks. It's all part of Stage Fright
's master plan to pay tribute to what has come before, and it accomplishes it in the most original way possible.
The reason for beginning this review with a disclaimer is this: Stage Fright
is not for everyone. Personally, I thought it was great. It does have issues, but the merging of two distinct genres that I love into one cohesive film was enough for me to overlook them. People who don't have the same appreciation for campy musicals may not agree. Those who do love to see people literally singing their guts out, Stage Fright
is for you.
As a fan of classic slasher movies, Jerome Sable made a point of doing Stage Fright
's special effects the old fashioned way, using practical, in-camera tricks. For help with this, the director enlisted the services of special makeup effects designer David Scott, the man who did the effects for the Resident Evil
movies and the Dawn of the Dead
remake. There is plenty of carnage in Stage Fright
, and the kills are fun throwbacks to the age of the splatter flick. Some are typical, using standard implements like knives to slit throats and such, while others are more creative (there's a light bulb scene that makes Oculus
' light bulb scene look like a puppet show), but it's all gruesomely well done. The visual effects hold up the horror end of the bargain in Stage Fright
's horror/musical hybrid.