SXSW 2014: “Stage Fright” – Review by MovieManMenzel

Stage Fright SXSW World Premiere

A horror comedy that butchers musicals.

When I first read the plot description to Stage Fright, I instantly knew that I wanted to see it. The film synopsis reminded me of Glee meets Friday the 13th and a horror comedy musical is not something that you see everyday. Right off the bat,I must give writer/director  a lot of credit for trying something that is different from your typical horror flick. The film’s premise was enough to get me to want to see it so that says something in itself. Did you read that studios? Creativity still matters.

Just a few days before its World Premiere at SXSW, Magnolia released a green band and red band trailer for the film. The trailer made the film look fucking awesome and an absolute blast to watch. The trailer seemed to get everyone talking as I overheard a lot of people talking about the flick while standing in line at SXSW. Needless to say, I made it my priority to attend the World Premiere screening of Stage Fright and was there with my express pass in hand to see the film.

Stage Fright opens on Kylie Swanson (), a successful Broadway star that has just finished a career boosting performance. While in her dressing room after the show, her daughter Camilla () is dancing around on-stage dreaming of following in her mother’s footsteps. That same night, Kylie is brutally murdered leaving Camilla and her brother Buddy () motherless.

Stage Fright SXSW Minnie Driver Review

Flash forward to 10 years later, Camilla is all grown up and working as a cook at the local theater camp. Camilla still dreaming of becoming a star decides to audition for the camp’s summer musical showcase. The big musical just so happens to be The Haunting of the Opera, the very same musical that made her mother famous. Everything seems to be looking up for Camilla until a killer that loathes musicals turns up at the camp. It isn’t long before this killer wreaks havoc on the camp taking out everyone in the production one by one.

As Stage Fright began, I was ready for pure awesomeness to ensure. I loved the opening scene involving Kylie Swanson being murdered as well as the film’s opening musical number. It seemed like everything was going in the right direction until the half way point where I asked myself, “Is this movie fucking awesome or is it fucking stupid?”As I continued to  watch the film, I was hoping to get a definitive answer to that question, however, by the end I still wasn’t entirely sure.

The idea behind Stage Fright is fresh, creative, and unique. A horror/comedy/musical is not something that you see everyday and a lot of what the film is going for works. It has a good mix of those three genres, however, something about the final product doesn’t seem as awesome as it should be. I think my biggest problem with the film is that as a musical fan, the vast majority of the musical numbers aren’t catchy or memorable. This makes a lot of the musical numbers within Stage Fright feel overly long and forced. The oddest thing about that is that the opening number is catchy, fun, and well choreographed. It seemed like Jerome Sable really focused on the opening to setup the film but after that the musical aspect got a tad bit sloppy as the story progressed.

Stage Fright SXSW Movie Review

Another thing that stood out about the film was that at times it was trying too hard to be funny. There are several moments mocking the cliches of theater and after a while the schtick got old. There are only so many gay theater jokes that one can endure while watching a film like this. Another aspect that I felt fell flat was the the idea of the casting director trying to get his actresses to sleep with him for the lead role. I understand that Sable was trying to poke fun at the whole theater scene including all the stories that go along with it, but after a while it just became tedious.

Now, I realize that it sounds like I am hating on Stage Fright but the truth is I did enjoy the film for the most part. I honestly thought the overall story was pretty solid and it did a good job of appealing to various genre fans. Allie MacDonald was great as Camilla and was a character that I genuinely rooted for the entire film. I think cheesiness of the killer’s dialogue along with his heavy metal musical moments were hilarious. The whole quoting theater lines like “break a leg” when he was killing various campers was the perfect mix of camp and fun.

All in All, Stage Fright is a flick that will leave most audiences happy. While it isn’t perfect, I will give Jerome Sable a lot of credit for trying to do something that hasn’t been done before. Stage Fright is ultimately a very campy and fun B Movie that will please horror fans and musical fans alike. It will more than likely never achieve mainstream praise but rather gain a large cult following that I can ultimately hope leads to a sequel. I think Sable is a talented guy and I look forward to see where he goes from here. With that being said, I must track down a copy of his short film The Legend of Beaver Dam which I heard served as the inspiration for this film.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Stage Fright is a 7 out of 10.

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