Stage Fright (2014)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #308

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: May 9, 2014
Sub-Genre: Slasher/Musical
Country of Origin: Canada
Running time: 88 minutes
Director: Jerome Sable
Producer: Jonas Bell Pasht, Ari Lantos
Screenplay: Jerome Sable
Special Effects: Raymond Mackintosh
Visual Effects: Lon Molnar, Geoff D.E. Scott
Cinematography: Bruce Chun
Score: Eli Batalion, Jerome Sable
Editing: Christopher Donaldson, Lisa Grootenboer, Nicholas Musurca
Studios: Serendipity Point Films, XYZ Films, Citizen Jones
Distributors: Entertainment One (Canada), Magnolia Pictures (US)
Stars: Allie MacDonald, Meat Loaf Aday, Douglas Smith, Kent Nolan, Brandon Uranowitz, Minnie Driver, Ephraim Ellis, Melanie Leishman, Thomas Alderson, James McGowan, Eli Batalion, Steffi DiDomenicantonio, Leanne Miller, Adrianna Di Liello, Ryan Bobkin

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Suggested Audio Candy:

 Eli Batalion & Jerome Sable Soundtrack Suite

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If there’s one thing that snags my dick skin then it’s musicals. Occasionally a film like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or the underrated Rock of Ages manages to come away unscathed but, for the most part, it’s far too off-Broadway for Keeper. Would I prefer to watch Pierce Brosnan sipping a martini whilst brandishing his silenced PPK or slurping a margarita while reciting ABBA’s back catalogue? There’s only one conceivable answer; his name’s Bond or The Saint at a push but certainly no Miley Cyrus. The idea of him straddling a wrecking ball clad in only his socks is one that makes me shudder for all the wrong reasons. Fuck musicals; who cares whether you’re a Jet or a Shark, either way you’re an advocate for teenage pregnancy.

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When a movie comes along like Jerome Sable’s Stage Fright you are required to take the rough with the smooth. There are going to be tuneful ditties whether you like it or not, we have Glee and High School Musical to thank for that. However, should you choose to look beyond the falsetto, then there is a reasonably astute if slight slasher flick vying for our attention. For Keeper, the real disappointment came when my initial anticipation for a remake of Michelle Soavi’s unsung classic of the same name ultimately subsided. Other than Lamberto Bava’s Demons, no other Italian horror from the mid-to-late eighties effortlessly got my dick so rigid and I was praying for the Owl-faced killer to resume services and give us a modern-day encore.

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Sable’s film bears no similarity to its namesake other than its theatrical setting. Instead it chooses to elaborate on most of its narrative through song and dance. This alone may well alienate many of its addressees in one fell swoop, while attempting to open it up to an entirely different audience. The cast croon in typically sexually frustrated fashion but there’s very little in the way of character development to speak of. It’s an uneasy mix for sure, kind of like semen and tequila, every time the cobwebs are cleared you end up backed up with sludge. But it is also courageous and signals Sable’s intent to operate outside the box which is admirable, if a little misguided. Every time we suspect we have been chloroformed by Annie, the killing commences, and we forget the fact that we ever wished to pluck our eyeballs from their very sockets.

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His name will forever be Robert Poulson but this time Meat Loaf Aday appears minus the moobs as the producer of the musical summer camp’s last hope The Haunting of The Opera. Once again he proves that not only will he do anything for love, but also that he is a dependable leading man when such is facilitated. As Roger McCall he displays all the twitchiness and desperation of a man on the brink of bankruptcy and his presence is certainly welcome. The forgotten girl of Hollywood, Minnie Driver, is also called upon for a miniscule cameo and that is never a negative in Keeper’s book. What is regretful is her lack of screen time as she is barely given time to warm her tonsils. Thankfully, Allie MacDonald steps into her shoes without procrastination and provides us with a plucky final girl more than deserving of her shot at the bright lights.

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The chief issue with Stage Fright is the fact that it seems destined to fall between two stalls. The opera is definitely an effective backdrop for butchery and each teen perforated is one less we have to stomach singing another rousing number. However, it is difficult forming any tangible connection to the characters as they are just too ready to break into verse at any given moment. Meanwhile, as a slasher movie, it rarely exceeds its reach despite a couple of particularly diabolical dispatches. There is precious little actual killing going down and, while admirable that Sable didn’t cop out for a PG-13 rating, it would have been nice if he had gifted us a little more time with his fascinating masked marauder.

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As a refreshing counter-balance to the saccharin crooning of its young cast, when the killer does decide to strike it is far more rock opera than The Sound of Music. Sadly, while the director has evidently grown up with Argento and Carpenter, he has watched his fair share of Scooby Doo also and the reveal is little short of deplorable once it finally arrives. If the words “I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for you pesky kids” had been delivered in C-minor then I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at that point and that is testament to just how middle of the road this film actually is.

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It is hard to recommend a film like Stage Fright as it will likely leave many cold with its approach to narrative development and endless musical numbers. However, as tempting as it may be to stick the boot in and tear it a new asshole, I just can’t bring myself to scoff at someone with the cahones to try something refreshingly different. Ultimately it boils down to whether or not you’re willing to overlook its musical leanings and accept it as a par for the course slasher. If the idea of nearly two hours of Mamma Mia! makes you want to punch yourself a fresh wall cavity, then give this a wide berth or, at the very least, utilize mute. If hearing the words “I’m gay, I’m gay, but not in that way” delivered with verve and spunk doesn’t cite embolisms then you may find enough here to titillate your senses. For the record, the next time I see Annie on fourth avenue, I’m still going to kick her fucking ass.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10

Grue Factor: 3/5

 

For the Grue-Guzzlers: It would have been too easy for Sable to cop-out here but Stage Fright effortlessly warrants its R rating with a couple of delectable dispatches. The body count is decidedly meager, especially given the fact that there’s an entire summer camp of hateful over-privileged teens just begging for the perforation. But beggars can’t be choosers and I never saw a dude having a light bulb shattered in his mouth in Glee, despite praying for such constantly.

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