tek's rating: ¾

Stage Fright (R)
Bloody Disgusting; Dread Central; IMDb; Magnet Releasing; Rotten Tomatoes; Serendipity; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Vudu

So, this is a slasher/musical/comedy, which is kind of a weird mix. It didn't do well either critically or financially, and I can see why... it's not a very good movie. But I did still manage to enjoy it, somewhat. Even though some bits were cringe-worthy, and some bits were offensive, I did get a few laughs out of it. And in general, I didn't think the songs were bad. And some of the horror bits worked well.

It begins with the first production of a play called "The Haunting of the Opera," which starred a singer named Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver). It was a huge success for producer Roger McCall (Meat Loaf Aday, whom I completely failed to recognize), and a star-making performance for Kylie (who is dating Roger). Backstage after the play, Kylie greets her young daughter and son, Camilla and Buddy, who later leave the dressing room with Roger while Kylie changes clothes. Then someone wearing the mask of the killer from the play comes in, and... of course it turns out it's not the actor, but an actual killer, who murders Kylie, for a reason that won't be revealed until much later in the movie.

The story then flashes forward ten years. Without Kylie, the play had closed production, and Roger never produced another play. Instead, he has spent the past decade running a theater camp called Center Stage, for young, aspiring musical actors. He has also raised Camilla and Buddy, who now work as cooks at the camp. Every year the campers work toward staging a musical, and this year the director, Artie Getz, has decided the play will be an adaptation of "Haunting of the Opera," set in feudal Japan and done as kabuki. Even though only campers are allowed to audition, Camilla sneaks into the auditions and impresses Artie. This upsets another actress named Liz Silver, who wants the lead role. Throughout the weeks leading up to the production, Artie remains undecided about who to cast in the lead, planning to make his decision via the casting couch. Liz seems much more willing to go along with this than Camilla, but Camilla becomes increasingly desperate to get the role her mother once played, herself. And then, the killings begin.

There are various characters who seemed like potential culprits, each for their own reasons. (Though it seems obvious it's not Liz, because we frequently see the killer, in a mask of his own, hiding backstage, and he sings like he's in a metal band, about how much he hates all the campers, and musical theater in general. And he definitely sounds like a man.) Could it be the creepy janitor, or Buddy (who never wanted Camilla to get involved in the play), or the stage hand who has a crush on Camilla, or Roger (who could use any kind of publicity to attract the attention of a Broadway bigwig he hopes will come to the show), or someone else entirely? I won't spoil that, of course. But there is at least one major plot twist, near the end, which leads back to Kylie's murder, years ago.

And that's all I want to say about the plot. It's all a bit redonkulous, but that's intentional, because it's a comedy. I actually felt the balance between comedy and drama/horror was kind of well done, but for the same reason that some people might feel it was poorly done. That is, it's too funny to take the horror completely seriously, but it's also too serious to take the comedy completely... uh, comedically. I can totally understand seeing that as a double failure on the movie's part, but I saw it more as... two half-successful elements, adding up to one successful movie (even if it sort of amounts to less than the sum of its parts). But I do think it's more important to look at it as a comedy than as a slasher movie, because even when the jokes are actually funny (which they aren't always), the humor will just be annoying if that's not what you're there for.


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