Movie review: Slasher-musical “Stage Fright” is tone-deaf

By
From the June 5, 2014 edition

The slasher musical “Stage Fright” opens with a “Fargo”-esque title card that says, “The following is based on true events. While the names have been changed to respect the victims and their families, the musical numbers will be performed exactly as they occurred.”

So I was immediately hoping for a smart, tongue-in-cheek (but loving) spoof of both slasher movies and musicals. And a lovingly corny early musical number stoked my hopes, which the rest of the movie then dashed.

Camilla Swanson (Allie MacDonald) is a teenager who works at performing arts summer camp and wants to follow in her mother’s Broadway footsteps. But soon the camp’s summer production is haunted by a musical-theater-hating killer.

A slasher movie set in a performing arts summer camp is such a fun, ripe concept that it’s such a letdown just how mediocre “Stage Fright” is.

This is clearly a labor of love for writer-director Jerome Sable (who also co-wrote the film’s musical numbers), but the wildly inconsistent tone does this in.

It comes out of the gate with equal parts gore and farce. The early send-up of theater kids is funny without being mean-spirited, and the over-the-top gore keeps in line with the genre. (The film is released by Magnet, which also released great genre-hoppers like “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”).

But then things settle in and, strangely, get pretty straightforward. Suddenly we just have an episode of “Glee” attached to a paint-by-numbers slasher flick, “Human Centipede”-style.

I actually prefer Vincent D'Onofrio’s 2010 oddball indie rock slasher musical, “Don’t Go In the Woods” (which, oddly, wasn’t played for laughs).

If you’re a musical theater/slasher movie nerd (and I know you are out there), you’ll find some enjoyment, but “Stage Fright” is sadly not destined for cult status.