Stage Fright
dir-scr Jerome Sable
prd Jonas Bell Pasht, Ari Lantos
with Allie MacDonald, Douglas Smith, Meat Loaf, Brandon Uranowitz, Kent Nolan, Melanie Leishman, Ephraim Ellis, Thomas Alderson, Steffi DiDomenicantonio, Eli Batalion, James McGowan, Minnie Driver
release US 9.May.14
14/Canada 1h29
Stage Fright
There's a killer in the wings: Alderson, Uranowitz and MacDonald

smith meat loaf driver
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Stage Fright A mash-up of genres, this horror musical-comedy works on so many layers that we're not always sure how to react. There isn't much to it, but Sable's writing and directing are witty and sharp, while the brightly energetic actors give it all they're worth. As a result, it's entertaining as a knowing pastiche, snappy comedy and unnerving freak-out.

Ten years after their actress mother (Driver) was killed, Camilla and Buddy (MacDonald and Smith) are working at Center Stage performing arts camp, run by ex-producer Roger (Meat Loaf). This year's big production is a revival of their mother's Phantom-like musical, so Camilla shamelessly woos cute-guy Joel (Nolan) to get the lead role. But arrogant wunderkind Artie (Uranowitz) is staging it in Japanese kabuki style and requires Camilla to jostle for the role against rival Liz (Leishman). Meanwhile, someone is stalking the camp, and everybody has a motive for murder.

Cleverly shot and edited, the film manages to draw out both laughs and chills, along with hilarious choreographed musical numbers that blur the line between the movie musical about stage nerds and the pastiche production they're staging. Writer-director Sable also mercilessly plays up the horror movie cliches, including a series of comically grisly deaths perpetuated by a rock-n-roll masked killer who could be just about anyone. And everything's played with a straight face, so to speak.

The ensemble is like an open audition for Glee: a sea of precocious attention-seekers. Rising above the fray, MacDonald and Smith anchor the film as camp employees still struggling with the tragedy that theatre brought to their family. And Meat Loaf is superb as the all-singing camp director with money woes and Broadway ambitions that just won't (ahem!) die. There are also plenty of amusing side characters who become likeable just in time to encounter the killer.

Yes, everything's rather ridiculous, but the escalating mayhem is a lot of fun, especially the merrily overwrought multi-whammy conclusion. So even if the bone-dry approach leaves everything feeling undercooked, there are wonderful lessons to take away, including the opening musical number, which notes that "we're all gay in one way or another, in the bedroom or in theatre kinds of ways". Or the touchingly sappy reminder that "all of life's a song to sing so sing with all your heart".

cert 15 themes, language, grisly violence 6.May.14

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Stage Fright Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall