The Washington Post

‘Stage Fright’ movie review: A bloody Broadway camp

Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith star in “Stage Fright,” which has people getting stabbed, burned and dismembered. But it can’t manage to get out there and break a leg. (Sabrina Lantos)

A killer stalks a theater-arts summer camp in “Stage Fright,” a movie apparently designed for fans of both Broadway musicals and slasher flicks. Or maybe it’s meant for people who like only one of those genres and want to see the other one trashed. One thing is for sure: Viewers without a taste for either musicals or horror will find this 88-minute trifle as interminable as “Les Misérables.”

Most of the movie is set at the camp, where new arrivals tumble off the bus to warble such lines as “I got beaten up a dozen times / For singing Stephen Sondheim rhymes.” The company’s self-serving director (Brandon Uranowitz) announces that this year’s production will be a Kabuki-style version of “The Haunting of the Opera,” which bears a certain resemblance to a musical with a similar name.

Camilla (Allie MacDonald) is there to work in the kitchen. But she really wants to play the female lead, and she has a certain claim on the role, which 10 years before belonged to her mother (a cameo by Minnie Driver). Mom was killed on opening night, an event that ended the Broadway career of the show’s producer (Meat Loaf). He now runs the camp and serves as the guardian of Camilla and her resentful twin brother (Douglas Smith).

Camilla’s winsome soprano gives her a shot at the role, inciting the jealousy of the other contender, Liz (Melanie Leishman). But when members of the company begin to be stabbed, burned and dismembered, Liz is just one of many possible suspects. The murderer — well, the principal murderer — isn’t merely a maniac. He has his own private soundtrack, which reveals a criminal preference for speed metal over “Cats” and “Follies.”

Canadian writer-director Jerome Sable, making his feature debut, also collaborated on the tunes. They’re adequate pastiches, but the score lacks a breakout hit, and the filmmaker makes a crucial error in emphasizing abrasive guitar solos over amiable lyrics in the movie’s bloody second half. Sable tries to wink at the carnage by including explicit homages to “ Carrie ,” “Hellraiser” and other bloody oldies, but the borrowings play like items from a checklist, not witty comments on splatter-movie conventions.

Often dressed in outfits that are strategically too small, MacDonald should hold the attention of a certain audience segment. But whether it’s being sexy, jokey or homicidal, “Stage Fright” doesn’t deliver the goods with sufficient spirit. It lacks the sparkle to be a truly killer show.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.


R. At West End Cinema. Contains bloody violence, sexual situations, strong language and one very raunchy joke. 88 minutes.



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