“Stage Fright” was a lot of fun. After years and years avoiding them as much as possible, I think I might slowly ease up on musicals. First, there was the pleasant surprise of “Les Misérables”, which completely blew me away (and, in my humble opinion, was one of the very best movies of 2013), then there was the amusing “The Muppets”, which I also quite enjoyed (and yeah, I know, technically that one came before “Les Misérables”, but I was a little late catching up on it), and now there’s this. I really had a very good time with it, and I especially enjoyed the songs. What’s wrong with me? I guess it’s time to catch up on some other well-liked musicals like “Moulin Rouge”. Anyway, back to “The Haunting of the Opera” (which is what this movie should have been called; there are already far too many other movies named “Stage Fright”, which, while I get the double meaning, is a far too generic title for a fun romp like this).
The flashback at the beginning is one of my favorite parts of this movie. It is as much hommage as it is a parody of “The Phantom of the Opera”, and features a nice, bloody kill, and is just overall a very well written and shot scene. However, the next couple of minutes offer some great, good-natured fun, with the arrival of the musical geeks at the camp. You don’t have to love musicals as much as they do to understand and share their joy. Many of us probably have hobbies or interests that we usually can’t celebrate in public and/or in our professional life. Those guys and girls arriving in the camp are just like the people coming together at conventions – or film festivals, for that matter: they share a similar interest, and enjoy being able to pursue it together. The accompanying song is one of my favorite of the movie, and perfectly captures that feeling of excitement, anticipation, and the joy of being able to let go without having to fear to be frowned upon.
While I do believe that “Stage Fright” never really reaches the same heights again that it offers within the first 10-15 minutes, the rest of the movie nevertheless is also very entertaining. Allie MacDonald, whom I never noticed before (and now have a total crush on), proves to be a great leading lady/final girl, and – assuming that she did all her singing (if not, I didn’t notice) – also has a great voice. I hope to see more of her in the future, because for me, she was the standout of the movie. However, Meat Loaf and Minnie Driver were great too; beware however that the latter features far less in the movie than the posters and covers would make you believe [SPOILER] (think Drew Barrymore in “Scream”, and you get the picture) [/SPOILER]. The rest of the cast is great too; I especially enjoyed the gay stage director or whatever his role was. The songs, as mentioned, are great, the movie itself finds a nice balance between funny and scary (even though it might fall rather into the earlier and less into the latter category), is pleasantly self-depreciating, and offers some crazy scenes and nice ideas.
However, the movie also hits a couple of false notes. Even though I get that it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, and that they were making fun of the cliché instead of propagating it, I could have done without the Heavy Metal-loving killer. I’ve seen that far too many times to even find it funny anymore. Also: the identity of the killer(s?) was a little bit too obvious for me. And as much as I loved all the songs, the movie could have used 1-2 more of them, since after a while, it became a little repetitive. I also preferred the first mask of the killer (even though I liked the reason for the change; the idea to interpret the “Haunting of the Opera”-musical in that way was inspired, and quite funny), and the finale was not quite as gripping, exciting and/or spectacular as I might have hoped. And after “Les Misérables” I really wish all musicals would record their songs live, because I’m really starting to notice the lip-syncing (or maybe it was just a little obvious in this case, at least here and there). Other than that, I had a blast.