31 Days of Horror… musicals: Stage Fright review

Here we are, day 2 of my 31 days of horror and I find myself wondering if I have made a terrible mistake choosing musicals. I mean, I know I didn’t and my list is as good as it was ever going to be but holy man was 2014’s Stage Fright a swing and a fucking miss. Nothing left to do but just get into it I guess.

Vital Stats
Released: 2014
Starring: Meat Loaf, Allie Macdonald, and Douglas Smith
Directed by: Jerome Sable

I remember seeing this on its release, and even – somehow – gave it a 7/10 back in 2014 according to my IMDB history, but I really couldn’t tell you where my head was at.

The movie does open strong enough, with an extremely brief appearance from Minnie Driver (genuinely, she spend more time in this movie as a photograph than in person, and still ends up top billed), and actually sets up a pretty wildly violent slasher move. The death is wildly over the top and fun – and then immediately following that the movie hits a wall and comes to a grinding halt as we arrive at a theatre summer camp that we’ll be spending the rest of the movie at.

The story itself is pretty much Phantom of the Opera made worse and more boring, and we’re not going to spend much time on the actual plot, but dont’ worry, there is plenty to talk about here. Starting with the truly wild decision to have all of the performers sing their songs live. This is almost always a terrible idea in film musicals, and is made all the worse when your cast is extremely young and of … varying levels of skill. I mean, look, they can all carry a tune better than me, but jesus christ are they pushing their voices beyond where they should, and maybe being able to run it a couple of times in a studio would have helped a little? Nothing is added to the movie having them do it live – other than a reminder of the ravages of time and their impact on Meat Loaf’s ability to sing.

The opening number also feels weirdly reductive and nearly homophobic, but in that way that every is friends so it’s ok? It’s very strange, the kids celebrate being at camp where they can be themselves, and then a weird stereotype of a gay-guy-pretending-to-be-a-straight guy sings about how he’s gay for musicals? It’s a weird energy, and I don’t know what to make of it.

The one thing that works is the director of the musical-within-a-musical’s decision to make the deeply terrible rip off of Phantom of the Opera into a piece of Kabuki theatre, but I’m not sure exactly how self aware the movie is. The rest of it is uneven and a weird mess, that never really re-captures the magic of that first bloody kill. There are a couple sprinkled throughout the movie but never enough to get that momentum back.

Honestly, it just a genuine slog, even at 90 minutes, and we haven’t even gotten to the “metal loving killer” which might as well just not be a factor but it is. It’s trying to cram so many references and tropes into itself that it bloats and becomes nonsense. What a genuine disappointment, it’s amazing what 8 years will do to your perception of a movie isn’t it?

Here’s hoping tomorrow is better.