The night of The Haunting of the Opera’s grand debut, Broadway star Kylie (played by Minnie Driver) is murdered backstage by someone wearing the mask of the play’s villain, Opera Ghost. Ten years later, Kylie’s twin children Camilla and Buddy are working for their stepfather Roger (played by Meat Loaf) at a performing arts summer camp on the verge of financial ruin. When the camp chooses a Kabuki style revival of The Haunting of the Opera as their summer program, the Opera Ghost killer returns to wreak havoc.
Stage Fright feels more like a very niche type of film. More than just a horror comedy, it feels as though it’s meant for fans of musical theater. Not only is the entire plot centered around a musical, from the audition process to opening night, but the characters will break out into song and dance almost at random. It’s all clever; the songs’ lyrics are satires of theater stereotypes and are often sung by the embodiments of theater stereotypes. But it’s clever in the way that it expects you to be very acquainted with theater. The film’s musical of choice, The Haunting of the Opera, is a blatant spoof of The Phantom of the Opera. So in this way, Stage Fright feels like it’s directed to a very specific audience.
Clashing with the musical theater satire is a surprisingly bloody slasher flick. The Opera Ghost’s brutal slaying style feels very reminiscent of 80’s horror, and it can be very messy. Of course, he sings too, though his metal vocal style set against heavy guitar riffs contrasts the broadway musical numbers sung by the rest of the cast. His identity, however, is an easy mystery to solve despite the red herring or two.
Allie MacDonald is perfectly cast as lead Camilla. She somehow manages a perfect blend of awkward, vulnerable, and ambitious that makes her a protagonist you want to root for. After her mother’s untimely death, her only motivation is her brother and the desire to follow in her mother’s footsteps. It’s her journey from the sleazy politics in the audition process through the serial killer’s opening night spree that keeps the film grounded. Meat Loaf’s role is also a pleasant surprise as the desperate camp owner.
Stage Fright’s horror elements, despite being bloody fun, are overshadowed by it’s musical theater aspects. After the opening scene, I almost forgot I was watching a horror film at all. While I appreciated Stage Fright’s uniqueness and satirical humor, I felt some of the inside jokes were lost on me. If the thought of watching the Glee kids get slaughtered amuses you, give Stage Fright a shot. But be prepared to spend a lot of time getting very familiar with musical theater before the payoff. Stage Fright is currently on VOD and will be released theatrically on May 9.