Stage Fright's horror-musical is utterly painful

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Starring Allie MacDonald, Minnie Driver, and Meat Loaf. Rated 14A.

As far as movies go, the horror-musical is a strange bird. How many horror freaks want a film’s unstoppable killer to break out in song seconds before committing his evil deed? That ruins the suspense. And how many Broadway devotees want to follow a viewing of Cats with a midnight screening of Hostel? That’s a lotta torture for one night.

Then again, I’ve gotta admit that the last horror-musical I saw—Saw II, III, and IV director Darren Lynn Bousman’s gory Repo! The Genetic Opera—was pretty entertaining. And who doesn’t love watching Tim Curry camp it up in The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Unfortunately, the new horror-musical Stage Fright doesn’t do much to win folks over to the genre—though not for Meat Loaf’s lack of bug-eyed trying.

Ten years after their mother, Kylie Swanson (the slumming Minnie Driver), is gruesomely murdered backstage following her performance in The Haunting of the Opera, her teenage kids Camilla and Buddy (Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith) find summer jobs as cooks at a kids’ musical-theatre camp run by failed producer Roger McCall (Loaf). When Camilla learns that they’re going to remount The Haunting—set in feudal Japan, no less!—she decides to audition, but there’s a kabuki-mask-wearing, metal-loving psycho on the loose who doesn’t agree that the show must go on. Suspicions are cast on Camilla’s jealous rival for the lead role and the camp’s creepy caretaker, among others.

“Isn’t it wrong to sing and dance when somebody died?” asks a little girl after the killer comically takes out one of the smarmier staffers, and—unless you’re a card-carrying member of the Glee fan club—you’ll wholeheartedly agree. But as utterly painful as Stage Fright is for its first hour or so, the film is saved somewhat by the final act’s delirious pacing, over-the-top performances, and comedic death scenes.

Once Meat turns up the heat it’s hard to look away, although plugging your ears is always an option.

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