Tuesday, April 22, 2014

STAGE FRIGHT (2014): Save the Kabuki Horror for Troma

I was excited to enjoy the new Stage Fright just released this year. Maybe it’s because I associated however irrationally with the Italian film directed by Michele Soavi. I assure you that there is no connection save that both take place in a theater… and involve a deranged, masked killer… Okay actually these two movies have a very similar theme, but that’s where the connection stops. Aquarius, the Italian Stage Fright, it is a suspenseful, atmospheric slash and kill feature that has garnered quite the cult following and continues to inspire audiences. 2014’s Stage Fright ends up feeling like a long winded high school musical rehash, just as concerned with strange and unnecessary social commentary as it is with occasionally killing a teenager. I didn’t come here to have my mind opened. I wanted to watch bodies hit the stage with fervor and gore and with as much gratuity as possible. While Stage Fright is wholly disappointing, it isn’t the movie that I had in my mind nor does it feel like the same movie that came out of the trailers that I found amusing.

Synopsis from Magnolia/Magnet:

Starry-eyed teenager Camilla Swanson wants to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a Broadway diva, but she's stuck working in the kitchen of a snobby performing arts camp. Determined to change her destiny, she sneaks in to audition for the summer showcase and lands a lead role in the play, but just as rehearsals begin, blood starts to spill, and Camilla soon finds herself terrified by the horror of musical theatre.


Let’s discuss what works in Stage Fright before going into a mini-tirade. There are some interesting kills. It isn’t afraid to be violent and to use creative physical effects to get the job done. When someone does end upon the butcher block, the movie turns from drab to interesting at least until the killer speaks. More on that later. The movie looks great and certainly is a competent film. We’re not talking about a low budget indie production that LOOKS like it has a low budget. The audio and video are up to par, and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it maintains the status quo. That’s just about where I stop saying nice things.

On the downside, the movie is one long drawn out mismatch of shitty musical numbers; the stuff of Broadway and Glee rather than creative, imagination required song and dance numbers. The whole thing is a platform for an all too familiar, progressive social agenda which is great in theory and practice but comes off as forced in the movie.

While the murders look really great, the killer looks anything but. First off, we have a guy in a Kabuki mask killing people. The Kabuki look went out with Sgt. Kabuiman of Troma infamy and does not need to be repeated here. The vocal performance of our killer comes off like a poor imitation of a King Diamond impersonator who has smoked too many cancer sticks and is in dire need of a muzzle. The killer might actually work if it wasn’t for the poor dialogue and lack of creepy that occurs whenever the damn guy opens his mouth. This character, no matter how kitch, is certainly a let down. When I think of Soavi’s Stage Fright (a wholly unrelated movie of course), the owl headed killer is a much more frightening foe. He’s quiet. He’s intimidating. The Kabuki killer isn’t funny, lovable. He’s just annoying. Save the Kabuki for Troma fellas.

This new Stage Fright oft feels like a horror comedy that couldn’t figure out how to be funny or scary. I can’t say that I recommend it save that I’ve heard a number of folks really praising it. Hey, I love musicals. Just not this one. Maybe this resonates with a younger, Glee watching crowd. Maybe its obvious humor gives bellyaches to your average tween. I’m disappointed, but if there’s one thing to enjoy about the whole mess, it might be that at least the kills are violent and enjoyable.

You can check out Stage Fright on VOD now.

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-Doc Terror

NOTE: I still love the poster, and I'll probably have to give it a shot with a group of well-oiled dance partners. 

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