It seems almost apt that the man who declared ‘hot patootie bless my soul, really like that rock and roll’ would wind up playing the director of a musical summer camp for kids. For Meat Loaf Aday – his film roles seemingly have come full circle from his Rocky Horror days and his theatrical stage performances – as his Roger McCall nurtures and mould the little darlings for their annual show in Jerome Sable’s directorial debut Stage Fright.
The film opens with the Minnie Driver’s primadonna Kylie Swanson ending her performance in The Haunting of the Opera to rapturous applause, her twins Buddy and Camilla take a tour of the auditorium, while their mother preens in front of her dressing room mirror. She is then savagely hacked to death by an unknown assailant wearing the mask of the Opera’s villain. Ten years later, the twins work at Center Stage Camp, a place where all misfits/theatre geeks love, laugh, sing, dance and, best of all, fit in. The Haunting of the Opera is chosen to be the musical book restaged (in keeping with the tragic anniversary), albeit relocating setting to Japan and replacing the plain white mask with that of a Kabuki, complete with top-knot. Camilla (Ally MacDonald) has always wanted to perform on the stage and despite being kitchen staff and not a student is allowed to audition. As pre-production begins, one-by-one cast and crew are picked off.
Okay, so it is not extremely difficult to see what, who, or how this film was inspired, it is painting a rock-horror-musical-by-numbers. It is an extended Glee episode (although the cast is by and large far more likeable) via The Phantom of the Opera and Friday the 13th. The score and song list is, however, original and fluctuate between eye-rollingly naff and grin-inducing, especially those songs sung by the supremely camp, foul mouthed villain who is, typically, dressed heed-to-toe in black brandishing a knife and electric guitar with murderous aplomb. In fact, one criticism is that he is not on screen nearly enough and an audience has to sit through more teen-angst than is absolutely necessary; where is the slicing and dicing?
There are enough sly allusions to other horror films to keep the seasoned genre-crowd satisfied (the sight of a twelve-year-old set designer wearing an apron whirling a hand-saw around made me chortle) and for those with a hatred or largely indifferent view of musicals there is a splendid rock and roll slayer to empathise with. Anyone with a sense of humour and a 90-minute window to fill should enjoy Stage Fright. It does exactly what it sets out to do, perhaps not quite frighten but it certainly entertains for the most part.