Have you ever wondered what “Glee” would be if it was a slasher film? The show, at times, was horrific, but it was no slasher film. Have you ever wondered what “Scream” would be if it was a musical? No? Well, I have, and while enjoying the wonders of an edible, I discovered one of the most utterly ridiculous, hilarious, and campy (literally) horror movies I have ever watched while joyfully medicated.
Over the years, horror films have evolved in portraying LGBTQ characters and themes. From the campy extravagance of films like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to the more nuanced storytelling of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” the genre has offered a platform for both overt and subtle queer narratives. “Stage Fright” fits comfortably within the lineage of queer horror films.
The brainchild of Jerome Stable, “Stage Fright” is a 2014 horror-musical film starring Minnie Driver and the late-great rocker Meatloaf that blends the flamboyant flair of a musical with the suspense and mayhem of a classic slasher film. All this is set against the backdrop of a theater summer camp that provides starry-eyed young talents with dreams of Broadway fame and a space to explore their authentic selves without judgment. That is, until the utopia is interrupted by a masked killer.
“Stage Fright” follows the story of Camilla Swanson (played by Allie MacDonald), summer camp worker and daughter of a Broadway diva who was murdered backstage a decade earlier by a mysterious masked killer. When Camilla lands the lead role in the camp’s production, The Haunting of The Opera (a reference to Phantom of the Opera), a wrench is thrown into her plans by a killer with a penchant for theatrics.
As the body count rises and terror escalates, the campers find themselves in a bloody battle between their artistic aspirations and a killer’s insatiable thirst for drama. Amidst the screams and musical numbers, which are pleasantly delightful, the masked killer isn’t just a brutal butcher; they’re a showman extraordinaire. Murders are executed with the flair of a choreographed dance number, utilizing props and sets to create gruesome yet strangely artistic tableaus. It’s like watching a Broadway show but with more, well, slashing.
The film’s climax, a grand musical performance, is a crescendo of chaos and catharsis. As the masked killer’s identity is unveiled and secrets come tumbling out, the audience is left with exhilaration and an oddly satisfying conclusion.
At its core, “Stage Fright” is a story of empowerment. Camilla Swanson’s journey to become a star is not just about pursuing her dreams but also about embracing her authentic self. Her transformation throughout the film is a powerful metaphor for the queer experience, where self-acceptance leads to personal growth and empowerment.
So, if you find yourself in need of a Halloween viewing experience that is equal parts comedic, creepy, and campy, this is the movie for you. “Stage Fright” is a genre-blending delight that offers humor, horror, and a harmonious celebration of musicals and slasher films.