As the world’s most avid movie musical fan, I hate to pan a film of this dwindling genre. We get so few of them these days, so whenever one actually reaches the screen it makes me feel excited and happy. Unfortunately, my happiness waned early on while watching Jerome Sable’s ambitious Stage Fright, a horror musical about murder and mayhem at a musical theater camp. Because Minnie Driver’s name appears as one of the stars, perhaps my expectations were too high. She wowed me as the hilarious opera diva in Phantom of the Opera -- and almost always delivers an entertaining performance. My disappointment here involves the lack of screen time given to this wonderful actress. Her work in Stage Fright amounts to little more than a cameo. If you’re a Minnie Driver fan, consider yourself warned. You’re welcome.
Speaking of Phantom of the Opera, this particular horror musical revolves around the re-staging of a tragedy-plagued show called Haunting of the Opera. In the opening scene, we see the original leading lady Kylie Swanson (Driver) slaughtered in her dressing room by an unknown killer. She leaves behind two youngsters – a son and a daughter. Fast forward ten years to the Center Stage camp, designed especially for students interested in show biz who feel unappreciated anywhere else.
Surprise! The project is founded by Roger McCall (Meat Loaf, the one and only), who just happens to be producer of the original Haunting of the Opera stage play. And guess what? The production soon to be underway is none other than Haunting of the Opera. But that’s not the only coincidence. Kylie’s lovely daughter Camilla (Allie MacDonald, who sings like an angel) and serious son Buddy (Douglas Smith from TV’s Big Love) work at the camp as cooks. Camilla wants to audition for the part her mother played, but Buddy doesn’t want to have anything to do with life on the stage. Of course, Camilla becomes one of the actresses selected for the main role -- and that’s when horrific murders begin happening at Center Stage. Who could be responsible for these gory killings? From this point on, “predictability” stands out as the key plot element.
Still, we’re talking about a horror musical, folks. So elements relating to horror and music should be more important than plot. Right? Okay, I admit the multi-talented Sable (director, writer, composer) includes enough bloody stuff to please most horror fans as well as a couple of amusing Glee-like musical production numbers that are fun to watch. But none of this quite comes up to the standard of such horror musicals as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Little Shop of Horrors, Dead & Breakfast and Phantom of the Opera itself.
(Released by Magnet Releasing and rated “R” for bloody horror violence, language, and some sexual references.)
For more information about Stage Fright, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.