Directed by: JEROME SABLE
Written by: JEROME SABLE
Starring: Meat Loaf, Minnie Driver, Allie MacDonald, Douglas Smith.
Running time: 98 Minutes
UK release: 26th JANUARY 2015 from Metrodome Distribution.
Please note this review does contain a few SPOILERS!!
High School Musical. Hannah Montana. Glee. I want to round up everyone involved in these shows and kill them in the most painful ways possible. Seriously. I’d take off Zac Efron’s face with a potato peeler. And a lot of you feel the same way, so that’s exactly what Jerome Sable has offered us in his 2014 feature début ‘Stage Fright’.
The film begins on a musical’s opening night; The Haunting of The Opera. It’s the story of a masked man who haunts a theatre and falls in love with one of the performers, with tragic consequences, so we immediately get the message. If you want subtlety and nuance then you’re in the wrong place.
Unfortunately, the on-stage performance of the leading lady (played by Minnie Driver) leads to her very real murder, meaning her two adorably creepy children are stuck in the care of Roger, her stage producer (an almost unrecognisable Meat Loaf). Then cut to ten years later; Roger is running a drama camp for snotty kids and employing Buddy and Camilla (the two children-Douglas Smith and Allie Macdonald) as wage slaves, dishing out various canned meals to the more privileged youth.
But Camilla wants more. She’s a great singer, so she breaks the camp’s rules to audition for a role in this year’s production, which just so happens to be the show that killed her mother. Because who wouldn’t want to be reminded of a parent’s murder? After Camilla wins the part, the entire camp starts gearing up for opening night. There are lines to learn, dances to choreograph and a really creepy director who’s implying that she’ll only get top billing in return for sex.
Finally; they’re ready. Aside from the fact that someone stole the Phantom costume, everything is perfect, so the director decides to make one final bargain; if Camilla sleeps with him, she can go on stage tomorrow. But this generous offer makes someone very, very angry. Angry enough to kill. But, in true theatrical style, everyone is convinced that the death is a grisly but unfortunate accidental. After all, people swallow light bulbs all the time. And the fact that he’s missing half his foot isn’t that suspicious. Fearing for the camp’s future, Roger covers up the murder, convinced that Camilla’s performance is going to bring him from the brink of total financial collapse. Needless to say, not a good decision.
The film starts barrelling toward its (fairly predictable) conclusion and nothing is going to stop the show from going on, even if there’s murder in the wings. The easiest way to explain ‘Stage Fright’ is not as one film, but as two. The majority of the movie is a horribly saccharine-sweet Disney musical, where drama nerds spontaneously burst into song about their difficult upper-middle-class lives are. It is terrifyingly hypnotic. The first time they start singing, you literally cannot tear your eyes away.
But hidden underneath all the sugar, rainbows and puppies is a strong slasher flick with a convincing antagonist and a unique flavour. Admittedly, the scenes of violence are few and far between but they are enough to make even the most dedicated of horror fans go ‘Ouch’. Even the shooting style shows the films duplicity. All of the musical segments are bright, colourful with the Nickelodean make-up jobs, where the horror sections are gritty and dirty, more at home in Hostel than Disney on Ice.
Within the first five minutes, you’ll spit blood. Five minutes later? You’ll be cringing at the cheesiness.
But the biggest concern is the genre. Horror musicals? Well, there’s Rocky Horror, that’s good. Sweeny Todd? Great! Repo; The Genetic Opera? Well, shit. In fact, the list of horror musicals is huge, but no one’s ever heard of them. Why not? Audience.
This film doesn’t appeal to anyone. People who like musicals won’t watch it because it’s too scary. People who love horror films won’t care because…well…it’s a musical. On top of the general division, another disappointment was the fact that Meat Loaf doesn’t use his fantastic pipes. Nearly all of his parts, even the musical ones, are spoken word. In fairness, Minnie Driver does star (for all of five minutes) but it is definitely the King of the Ballad that should be the major selling point here, and he just isn’t.
I’ll be frank. This film isn’t going to be well reviewed by critics, even though it should be. It’s funny, it’s well made and it has a ton of star power, but it’s too alienating to be popular and that’s a shame. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable films of the year. So if you love musicals, then watch this film. It is hilarious, the score and the songs are all surprisingly well done and it is just pure fun.
But what if you hate musicals, like me? What if you want to push the wheelchair kid from Glee down a flight of stairs? Then you should watch it as well, because that it more or less what happens. Do you want to set fire to Hannah Montana? Then watch ‘Stage Fright’. It’s the closest you’ll ever get.