This is a film that I’ve been on the fence on watching for a while. I knew next to nothing about it going in other than it shared the same title as Michele (Cemetery Man) Soavi’s directorial debut, but wasn’t a remake of it. The plot of Stage Fright is that it is a horror/musical that follows the aftermath of the brutal murder of The Haunting of the Opera star Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver). Ten years after the event, Kylie’s now teenage children Camilla (Allie MacDonald, House at the End of the Street) and Buddy (Douglas Smith) go to a musical summer camp which has the idea to reproduce The
Phantom Haunting of the Opera as a kabuki play. Camilla decides she wants to be in the film and meets resistance from her brother. She goes ahead with it anyways and people start to die.
In a lot of ways Stage Fright is a musical giallo. You have a black gloved masked killer taking people out in very gruesome ways during an opera production, and that’s a plus in the films favor. However, it’s primarily a musical, and switches more to the horror aspect later on in the film. Stage Fright is straddling the fence on which genre it wants to be and would have been much better had it settled on one or the other. With that said, this is a very well produced film that I found to be entertaining enough — my biggest problem with it is that the cheesy song and dance numbers made me feel like I was watching a well known trilogy of Disney flicks involving singing teenagers (and also feel a killer in that series would have been much more well placed).
When the killer was on screen though, I was very much amused as he belted out falsettos rock tunes like a mixture of King Diamond and Gene Simmons while stabbing people. The Kabuki mask design is also very visually striking, which is another point in the films favor. Stage Fright also shares a star from another well known horror musical, Meat Loaf Aday, who stars Roger, the head of the summer camp. Writer and director Joel Sable is obviously a big fan of the genre and there is a lot of enthusiasm behind this production but ultimately it comes across as watered down and underwhelming. Although writer/director Joel Sable does a solid job directing Stage Fright, the film is too light hearted to accomplish much in the way of scares or a consistent tone. This could have been a cult classic, instead it’s a just a perfectly serviceable way to spend an hour and a half when you’re bored and streaming Netflix.
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