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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Stage Fright

July 6th, 2014

Stage Fright - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Stage Fright is a horror musical. When you look up a list of horror musicals, you find films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Little Shop of Horrors. Those are comedies that use horror tropes to tell a story. The list of actual horror musicals is tiny. Is there something in musicals that makes them incompatible with horrors? If so, how does Stage Fright figure this out? Is it actually a horror movie? Or is it as scary as The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

The Movie

The film begins at a performance of The Haunting of the Opera with Kylie Swanson in the lead. Her two children, Camilla and Buddy, are watching from behind the scenes. It's a star-making performance by Kylie and her manager, Roger McGall, wants to take her and the twins out on the town to celebrate. She just needs to get out of her costume first. However, while she's getting ready to go, and the young Camilla is imagining what it would be like to be the star, Kylie is attacked in her dressing room by a man in the Opera Ghost's mask.

Ten years later... we meet the older Camilla and Buddy, who are working in the kitchen of Center Stage, a summer camp for aspiring actors, singers, etc. It is run by Roger, who has also been raising them since their mother was murdered. However, the place is losing money and might shut down. He has a plan to get the place noticed by more people. Their summer production will the The Haunting of the Opera. Both Camilla and Buddy are shocked, but for two different reasons. Buddy thinks it's tasteless and generally hates the performing arts geeks. Camilla thinks it might help Roger get his career back on track and get them to New York. She might even audition for a part.

Meanwhile, we've gotten to meet a few of the main campers. Leading the way is Artie Getz, who will be directing and starring in the adaptation. He is also the reason why this version will be set in feudal Japan. The villain will be played Sam Brownstein, while the leading lady will likely be Liz Silver. Camilla wants the lead, but she has to get past Joel Hopton, whose job it is to screen the applicants. She is able to, mainly because Joel has a crush on her. (That's putting it mildly.) Liz, on the other hand, rats her out to Roger. It is against camp policy for anyone but paying campers to audition. However, since this was Camilla's mother's role that made her famous, he agrees to let the audition continue.

Good news. Camilla does win the lead part, along with Liz. (They will have to compete to see who gets the lead opening night.) Bad news, not everyone is happy with that. Buddy's not happy, because he's got to cover all of Camilla's shifts while she's rehearsing. He also really hates theater geeks. He thinks they are out of their minds. Liz might prove that cause. She is furious Camilla is getting a chance at the role, so much so that she vandalized Camilla's picture of her mother.

It's going to get better for Camilla, right? Well, since this is a teenage slasher, you know that's not true. There other reasons to suspect things about about to get murdery, but I can't mention why, because they are spoilers. On a side note, it is too spoilery, so spoilery that I wonder why it was in the movie in the first place.

Stage Fright is like two movies sewn into one. Once they hit Center Stage camp, it's a musical about theater geeks. There is obviously something menacing under the surface, but for the most part it is a relatively straight. The first few songs are good and the early part of the movie has enough energy to entertain. ... Then it becomes a teenage slasher. Instead of being a parody of teenage slashers, it is merely an average example of the genre. Worse still, the music that was a key part of the early film's success isn't an asset anymore. What started out as a promising mixture of the two genres never really formed into one. Instead it feels like two movies stitched together.

On the other hand, it isn't truly bad either and there are some real selling points. This includes a number of great performances from Minnie Driver, Meat Loaf, and especially Allie MacDonald. She is an amazing singer and great actress and I look forward to seeing her in something better. I also really like Melanie Leishman, who was in Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, which I previously reviewed.

The Extras

The extras begin with an audio commentary track with the writer / director / co-composer, Jerome Sable, and his fellow co-composer, Eli Batalion. There is also a nine-minute long making of featurette. There are four minutes of deleted scenes. In Memory of a Fallen Camper is a two-minute look at a character that was cut from the movie. The Evolution of the Set Design is a gallery of production design drawings. There are seven songs presented in sing-along mode. Up next is a 17-minute interview with Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion. The final extra is a AXS behind-the-scenes.

The technical presentation is good, all things considered. The film is a low-budget film from Canada, so don't expect the movie to look or sound as good as a high-budget Hollywood production. That said, the level of details are are strong, as are the colors. Some of the darker scenes don't stand out as well, but that's not too big an issue. The audio is likewise good, but not great. The dialogue and the lyrics are always clear, but there is not a ton of activity in the surround sound speakers.

The Blu-ray costs $24, which is only $1 more than the DVD. This is a great deal for a limited release.

The Verdict

Stage Fright has a lot of potential, but the execution means there are only mixed results. Allie MacDonald's performance and some fun songs make it worth checking out, but I don't think there's enough replay here to be worth more than a rental. If you disagree, then the Blu-ray is the better deal over the DVD, as it only costs $1 more.

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Filed under: Video Review, Stage Fright, Minnie Driver, Meat Loaf, Douglas Smith, Allie MacDonald, Melanie Leishman, Jerome Sable, Brandon Uranowitz, Eli Batalion, Ephraim Ellis, Kent Nolan