Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #20 – Stage Fright (2014)

rsz_stage_fright_posterChe Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #20 – Stage Fright (2014)

Join Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

Title: Stage Fright

Year: 2014

Director: Jerome Sable

Starring: Allie MacDonald, Douglas Smith, Meatloaf, Minnie Driver, Kent Nolan, Brandon Uranowitz

Netflix Percentage that I’ll like it (or rating): 2.4 stars. No recommendation on whether Netflix thinks I’ll like it or not.

Seen it before: No

rsz_stage_fright_1First Impressions: My deepest wish is that it will be a slasher musical. If my dreams come true that doesn’t mean it will be any good LOL! From the description it looks like a fairly standard slasher with the addition of musical theater camp. So I’m guessing it will be OK but nothing to write home about.

The Verdict: For once I was right! It IS a musical slasher film! And a darn well done one at that! It’s (unfortunately) a rare occurrence to be pleasantly surprised by a horror film these days. But Stage Fright was an entertaining romp through musical theater camp peppered with gruesome deaths and surprisingly good musical numbers.

Young Camilla and Buddy Swanson (played by Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith) were orphaned as children when their mother, up and coming Broadway star Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) was murdered after starring in The Haunting of the Opera. Her manager Roger McCall takes the children in and raises them as his own. Camilla and Buddy now work as cooks at the theater camp Roger owns. When the camp season starts the campers embark on a production of The Haunting of the Opera, which meets the same bloody fate as the original.

rsz_stage_fright_2This musical meets slasher is original, funny, toe-tapping and gory. Pretty much everything that anyone could want in a horror film. It takes some nice twists and turns, and skewers everything from actor rivalry to skuzzy locals. Camilla is the rising ingénue, auditioning for the camp musical when she’s technically ineligible as an employee. Smelling a profit to be made though, Roger allows it. Buddy is disgusted his sister wants anything to do with show business and the snobby campers who snub them on a yearly basis.

The songs are unexpectedly good. Often a film like this has trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, and the songs will suffer. But not this time. From the opening number sung by the campers, to those from the Haunting of the Opera, they are entertaining and fun. The gore effects are decent too, and there are a number of creative deaths which befall the unlucky campers during their annual production.

rsz_stage_fright_3As great as Stage Fright is, there are a couple of small nitpicks. The masked villain has only one rock solo toward the end of the film, but they flash on him several times earlier in the movie which would have been a perfect time for a rock song about what he wanted to do to the campers. Secondly, the deaths are all loaded into the very end, during the production of The Haunting of the Opera. I expected the deaths to be spaced out, more Sleepaway Camp style. Instead, after Minnie Driver’s death at the very beginning, the story of the camp takes over, and no one dies again until the climax. The intervening story IS good, so it’s engaging, but still loses sight that this is a slasher film, and therefore requires slashing to happen.

Still, the complaints are small and the entertainment is high! Treat yourself to this unusual and hilarious mash-up.

Rating: 8/10

Stage Fright (2014) Review

Stage Fright posterStage Fright (2014)

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.

stagefright1But 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.

stagefright2But 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.

stagefright3But 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.


ABCs of Death 2 (2014) Review


ABCs-2-PosterABCs OF DEATH 2

Dir: Rodney Ascher, Julian Barratt, Robert Boocheck, Alejandro Brugues, Kristina Buozyte, Alexanre Bustillo, Larry Fessenden, Julian Gilbey, Jim Hosking, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, E.L. Katz, Aharon Keshales, Steven Kostanski, Marvin Kren, Juan Martinez Moreno, Erik Matti, Julien Maury, Robert Morgan, Chris Nash, Vincenzo Natali, Hajime Ohata, Navot Papushado, Bill Plympton, Dennison Ramalho, Todd Rohal, Jerome Sable, Bruno Samper, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Soichi Umezawa

Starring: Tristan Risk, Martina Garcia, Beatrice Dalle, Lawrence R Harvey, Jerod Meagher, Andy Nyman, C Ernst Harth, Miguel Angel Munoz, Ivan Gonzalez, Ian Virgo, Alys Crocker, Victoria Broom, Lee Majoub, Kestrin Pantera, Conor Sweeney

The first ABCs of Death it has to be said, had a rather fun and novel concept at its core. The idea of presenting 26 short films, each based around a letter of the alphabet was an inspired one. However, despite an array of horror talent both old and new, the film came up incredibly short (no pun intended!). It was inevitable that consistency would be an issue on a project like this but for the shorts to be as uninspired and often unpleasant as they turned out to be was something of a surprise. I appreciate that not everyone feels this way, and the film(s) has a lot of fans and was successful enough to warrant this sequel. Again we are treated to 26 short films based around the letters of the alphabet, and again it is a mixed bag, and again to these eyes anyway, it never achieves its potential and is lacking in something truly inspired.

How you feel about this second dose of alphabetised mayhem will probably depend of how much you liked the first dose, and how forgiving you are of the film maker’s indulgencies. It isn’t without merit and I have to admit that three or four of the shorts hit the mark, just about, for me this time which is a bigger success rate than the first. But ultimately as an exhibition of the short film format, and as an anthology picture it fails and is mostly filled with either very bland student style films, or films that are overly bizarre just for the sake of it.

abc2A is for Amateur is a convoluted little opener that I completely lost interest in early on and wasn’t a good start. B is for Badger was a mini mockumentary about an obnoxious reporter that falls foul of an angry man eating badger. Harmless enough, but again lacks punch. C is for Capital Punishment has bigger ideas, and its denouement is shocking, but it doesn’t quite ring true. D is for Deloused is one of the better entries; a stop motion animation about large bugs it is creepy and well done. E is for Equilibrium is kooky and entertaining as a girl comes between two castaways. F is for Falling is one of the worst of the bunch. It tries so hard to say something about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that it ultimately says nothing at all.

G is for Grandad is another poor entry and an example of something being gross for the sake of it. H is for Head Games is a weird animation about relationship power struggles; odd, but effective in its way. The amusingly gruesome I is for Invincible is a better short as a family tries to kill its invincible matriarch for its inheritance. J is for Jesus is a brutal and visceral affair about ignorance and martyrdom. It is solid and quite frightening, but not particularly memorable. K is for Knell was another oddity that failed to really connect with me. L is for Legacy involves a ritual sacrifice going wrong, but again is fairly forgettable. M is for Masticate is a slow motion bore that goes for high style but feels forced and a bit silly in the end.

N is for Nexus is better from the famed Larry Fessenden. Dealing with interweaving fates as people prepare for Halloween it is genuinely quite shocking. O is for Ochlocracy is well set up as it deals with a woman on trial for crimes against zombies after the zombies have become the dominant species. Smart and witty, it just out stays its welcome a little. P is for P-P-P-P SCARY! is just awful. Neither funny nor scary it is misguided and smart arsed. Q is for Questionnaire is ok. It works on its own terms, but isn’t particularly special. R is for Roulette sees three people in a basement forced to play Russian Roulette. Whilst it is well done, it doesn’t seem to have any real point. S is for Split is almost brilliant. Using split screen it follows a man as he is forced to listen to an attack on his wife via his phone in another country. It is genuinely tense, but is let down by offering up a predictable final twist.

abc3T is for Torture Porn sees American Mary’s The Soska Sisters take a stab at the murkier aspects of the porn industry. An interesting set up is ultimately let down and the film doesn’t particularly stand out. U is for Utopia is a quite effective sci-fi tale about our obsession with perfection. It emerges as one of the smarter more interesting entries. V is for Vacation is a raw and brutal entry that sees two obnoxious tourists fall foul of a couple of prostitutes they have mistreated. Rough and unpleasant, it is hit and miss. W is for Wish is a strange, but nightmarish journey into dark childish fantasy. Some interesting ideas are buried under tacky visuals. X is probably the most difficult letter to land but Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s X is for Xylophone is a good entry that goes to some pretty unpleasant places but does so with a wry and sinister smile. Y is for Youth is a crazed revenge fantasy that has some cool ideas but doesn’t feel entirely complete. Finally the end comes, and it ends on a high note with Z is for Zygote. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense but it is wonderfully gross and disturbingly funny.

Ultimately what we have here is a very mixed package from a very mixed bag of film makers. The best anthology films tend to have something that ties all the segments together, giving them some sort of narrative link and making them feel more cinematic. Possibly the biggest problem with both ABCs of Death films is that they lack any real connecting feature. They have the concept to work with but ultimately nothing is relevant to anything else on display meaning it is all a bit pick and mix. If you liked ABCs of Death the likelihood is you will find something to like here as well, but if you had little love for it the first time round it is unlikely that you will find much of interest here. Diverse, certainly but ultimately fairly forgettable from almost all concerned.


Stage Fright (2014) Review

FF bannerStage Fright posterStage Fright (2014)

Dir: Jerome Sable
Written By: Jerome Sable
Starring: Meat Loaf, Minnie Driver, Allie MacDonald, Douglas Smith
89 mins.

UK release: Frightfest 2014

A masked killer – who totally hates musical theatre – terrorises a summer camp full of born-for-the-stage young hopefuls, all of whom find themselves singing and dancing to their deaths. Literally.

Marketing a film as the new Rocky Horror is a bold move, but with Meat Loaf in a starring role and an opening number utilising the refrain “I’m gay, I’m gay, but not in that way”, it’s difficult not to appreciate Stage Fright in much the same way that Richard O’Brien’s lauded cult classic is so beloved twenty years later. Whether the audience is there for it, in the year 2034, is another story.

The carnage begins on the set of The Haunting Of The Opera, a sort of slasher take on The Phantom Of The Opera, with Minnie Driver’s diva Kylie in the lead role. As her daughter belts it out live on stage to an audience of no one, Kylie is brutally murdered backstage by a masked assailant, whom she mistakenly assumes is her devilish co-star. Fast forward a decade and Meat Loaf, the then-producer, is now heading a summer camp for obnoxious theatre kids, where he and his fabulous moustache are as much a part of the scenery as the, well, fake scenery they use in their productions.

SF 1Having taken Kylie’s kids under his wing, Meat Loaf focuses all his energy on paying bills and singing songs while the two brats – one of whom, we recall from the prologue, dreams of being centre-stage – slog away in the kitchen. When he decides to resurrect (no pun intended) the ill-fated Haunting Of The Opera, it isn’t long before the bodies start to pile up again. And, although it’s blindingly obvious who’s to blame, there’s a lot of singing and dancing and stabbing to get through before the killer’s identity is revealed – most of it highly enjoyable.

It goes without saying that Stage Fright is a very silly affair. Chock full of ridiculous songs – all of which were penned by director Jerome Sable, along with the snappy script – and great throwaway gags – posters are dotted on the walls advertising previous musicals such as Arkansas! and The Producerables – it has more in common with another Canadian export, the sadly short-lived Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil, than the ludicrously popular Glee.

The music, for the most part, is diverting enough with Meat Loaf proving he still has an amazing set of lungs on him, while newcomers Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith hold their own as the warring brother and sister duo, one of whom despises musical theatre. The killer, clad in a creepy kabuki mask throughout, communicates his anger through bursts of heavy metal guitars, which leads to a moment reminiscent of Brandon Lee’s iconic rooftop jam in The Crow.

SF 2Happily, this is a far less serious take on rock star theatrics, although the kills hit just as hard as the songs – Kylie’s murder, in particular, is vicious – and there are some genuinely creepy moments, in spite of the fact it takes place mostly in daylight. Naturally, Meat Loaf is the heart of the production, effortlessly stealing each scene he’s in. He’s not quite gifted with a Hot Patootie this time around, but he does the best with the material he is given and a twist in the final act lends his character some genuine pathos, too.

Stage Fright isn’t going to have nearly as much impact as the great Rocky Horror, but it does what it says on the tin and it has absolutely no aspirations to do anything otherwise. Check your brain at the door, allow your toes to tap along and you might just enjoy yourself.

Rating: 7/10