Feature 26 – Stage Fright (2014)

or “Everybody’s a Critic”

Featuring: Allie “House at the End of the Street” MacDonald , Meat Loaf “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” Aday , Minnie “Grosse Pointe Blank” Driver

Director: Jerome “ABCs of Death 2” Sable

Writers: Jerome “ABCs of Death 2” Sable , Eli Batalion

Origin: Canada

Review_____

“Kylie Swanson slept with so many people on Broadway, they called her ‘The Great White Lay’!”

There was a local legend in my neck of the cosmic woods about a disfigured creature who lived in a dumpster behind the local Taco Bell and attacked random drive-thru customers after dark. It would make off with their orders and escape into the night, consuming the purloined fast food feasts to provide itself with the saturated fats and high sodium its unique biology required for survival. Some said it was a former employee traumatically mutated thusly: an assistant manager (in a direct insult to the gods) offered him two straight Thursdays off with pay if he would consume an unholy brew consisting of one packet of each type of Taco Bell sauce mixed into a 40oz cup of Baja Blast, poured over a half-eaten Beefy 5 Layer Burrito and some Volcano Nachos left behind by a mysterious customer dressed all in black (who paid for his meal with Canadian currency) and microwaved it for 66 seconds at .6 power. The nightmarish brew turned the young register jockey into an abomination that would be dubbed by the hushed whispers of the townies as the Chalupacabra.

As an amateur Cryptozoologist (and in need of money to help fund my proposed Tomb of Anubis book project), I man-jackaled my own solo mission to shackle this horror and put it on display for public entertainment at county fairs and truck pull events. Unfortunately, my investigation did not turn up a gordita thieving freak. No, the so-called Chalupacabra was just a local homeless guy named Pete who had bitten off a drive-thru girl’s pinky finger one night after he’d huffed a whole can of Rust-Oluem. Pete had no mysterious origin, mystical or otherwise, he’d just lost his job when the ChiChi’s next door closed down, and moved into the Taco Bell dumpster rather than take up at a homeless shelter. What the fuck does my story have to do with today’s movie? My very simple, reasonable expectations and the universe’s continued failure to meet them…and my need to make “Chalupcabra” a matter of public record so I can claim copyright on it if Taco Bell ever tries to steal the name from me for use as a new corporate mascot. Which they desperately need, cuz you know that “Yo quiero Taco Bell!” dog died YEARS ago.

News of Stage Fright came to me from my Evil Dead Bride at first under the perception that it would be a remake of the 1987 Italian slasher flick of the same name, also known by its first moniker, Deliria. In anticipation, we sought said cinematic situation, and sat through 2hrs of goofy in a 90min tow away zone. By which I mean it was a bizarre little movie about a stab happy murderer stalking the cast of a corny ’80s rock opera while wearing a big creep-ass owl mask. It’s good old fashioned spaghetti sauce from the “the more dead young people the better” decade. When it finally came time to taste test this new Stage Fright, despite some very loose similarities (a masked killer stalking the cast of an absurd musical), our aforementioned prior perception turned out to be a misconception. Disheartening, given how the original was good for some freaky visuals, slick slaughter, and a few absurd chuckles. Blart.

Oh well, as I always say, expectations are the fault of the expecter. For instance, if you were expecting me not to make up a word like “expecter”, you failed. You get NOTHING! You LOSE! GOOD DAY, SIR! Anyway, in case you too were suffering from the same delusions of campy grandeur as we were, welcome to reality. Pardon the smell. We haven’t been able to find the cause and we’re pretty much hoping it dissipates on its own eventually. Speaking of campy…

Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver… who gets top fucking billing for TEN MINUTES OF WORK!) was once a lauded stage performer (acting not stripping, thank Set!) on the verge of her big break – starring in a critically acclaimed production of Haunting of the Opera (because Phantom’s probably copyrighted out the ass). Too bad for her that an unidentified guy in the masked Phantom-esque killer’s costume cut her career violently short with a sizable bit of Slash Co. brand stabware, which he demoed for her across her throat and into her mouth! Mamma mia, that’s a spicy piece of stainless steel! Only from Slash Co.!

Ten years after the fatal fall of Kylie (a book title if I’ve ever heard one), her twin children Camilla (Allie MacDonald) and Buddy (Douglas Smith) have reached adulthood under the parentage of Kylie’s then boyfriend and producer Roger McCall (Meat Loaf – that’s exactly how he’s credited on his IMDB page!), who took the kids under his care in the wake of their mother’s gruesome windpipe ventilation reassignment procedure. No longer enjoying the life of a successful producer, Roger’s since tobogganed face first down the icy slope of financial collapse since Kylie’s demise and has invested what little he had left into establishing Center Stage – a summer camp for aspiring child performers (where the twins work in the kitchen). Through Center Stage, Roger hopes to exploit any burgeoning young success stories from which can get himself an AC/DC: back in black…though his dirty deeds done dirt cheap will probably get him thunderstruck on a highway to Hell with his balls to the wall! Wait, that last one was Accept. However, if you want blood, you’ve got it! Sorry, there’s no more blood yet, I was just caught up in the AC/DC thing. I’ve gotta stop listening to music when I write these things.

Back to the beaten path, the underage attendees of this little refugee camp for failed “Glee” hopefuls have a tendency to break into song and prance as if they’d previously rehearsed these spontaneous acts of musical mirth. I thought I was walking into a cheesy slasher romp, but it appears I’ve stumbled into a little too much whimsy and much too little horror. This year’s big camp production is a kabuki (“Bukkake?”) rendition of…can you guess? Go on, give it a shot. Did you figure it out yet? If you guessed anything other than Haunting of the Opera, I’d like you to go back to every teacher you had from grade school to whatever your highest level of education may be, and slap each of them for failing you. If any of them are dead, let me know who and I’ll slap them for you here in the Underworld.

As for that play, the acting and/or singing bug hasn’t just bitten Camilla, it’s crawled up her nose, eaten half of her Medulla Oblongata, and laid eggs in her Fissure of Rolando. Inspired by an autographed 8×10 of her mom (long story, don’t ask), Cammy takes center stage (no pun intended) of our story as she bucks Roger’s rules about only campers being allowed to audition for the shows, and snags herself a chance at the role her mom originated as the female lead! Whose name I forget because who cares. Despite McCall’s misgivings, the show’s assigned director/romantic lead/self-proclaimed artist/biggest douche bag in the state, Artie Getz (Brandon Uranowitz…no, YOU’RE ano…is…witz…shut up!), insists that the fresh faced lass be his leading lady. He did helm their previous summer’s bold musical re-imagining of The Vagina Monologues after all, so he must know what he’s doing…that, and Cam’s the only legal age ass in the camp he hasn’t had on his casting couch yet. Finally given a chance to make her dead momma proud and do something with her life that doesn’t involve Brill-O pads and industrial sized cans of spaghetti sauce (that’s mostly watered down ketchup), Camilla couldn’t be happier and dedicates herself wholly to her new craft. As for brother Buddy, he’s not happy with the arrangement, as it leaves him with twice the workload now while he picks up the proverbial slack left by sister’s absence. Someone else not happy with Cammy’s leading role is Liz Silver (Melanie Leishman), the resident diva of the program who will do whatever she has to to get the spotlight onto her cunty mug instead…including murder? You never know.

Except that I do, because I’ve already seen it, hence this review.

While all of this has been playing out, a manic figure dressed in black has been lurking in a nondescript, poorly lit room at an undisclosed place. I’m not entirely sure he’s even on the campgrounds, to be honest. Our obvious killer-to-be spends his time wailing on his electric guitar and screeching like Sebastian Bach (his rock opera performances will either give you a tongue-in-cheek laugh or a spike-in-the-butt aggravation) as he splatters red paint on the campers’ head shots and slashes at them with his movie murderer tool of choice: a pair of circular saw blades modified with finger hole grips. On The Tomb of Anubis Scale of Bad-Ass Weapons, these mofos fall somewhere between Jason’s saw blade weed whacker in Friday the 13th Part VII (“Very Bad-Ass”) and Ash’s chainsaw hand in Evil Dead 2 (“Legendary Bad-Ass”). They’d be equally excellent either here as a shredder of teenagers, a homemade peacemaker in one of those “Joe Everyman becomes a vigilante” flicks, or some hardcore ninja gear in a Shaw Brothers feature. I think I’ll put in a requisition with Osiris to get a pair of my own for soul reaping during those times when my scythe is in the shop getting its firmware updated.

The night before the big show’s set to open, our phantom flayer finally gets his feet wet (with gore) when he torture kills someone (I won’t tell ya who) on the stage. The next morning, Roger tells the kids that the person’s death was clearly an accident (though I’d love to see the Rube Goldbergian scenario he comes up with to explain the kid’s multi-step mutilation) and convinces them that the show must go on… through the use of another rousing musical number! And so, the play goes off without a hitch, Roger gets back into the big leagues of Broadway productions, Camilla is rocketed to immediate stardom, and she and Buddy open their hugely successful restaurant together. Everybody lives happily ever after. Don’t believe me? Good. You’re learning. What really happens? I’ll tell you this much – nothing goes right, people die, and Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhampsody Numero Dos” gets a comedy scene that overstays its welcome. But then, any rendition that isn’t the piano duel between Daffy and Donald at the Ink and Paint Club is bound to fall short.

Is the killer Joel (Kent Nolan), the stalker-lite lighting guy who looks like that Mexican werewolf kid from the Twatlight movies and has an obvious boner for Cammy? Could it be the creepy all-too-obvious-red herring janitor who’s always skulking around looking all-too-obviously-suspicious? Maybe it’s Buddy, trying to end his sister’s career before it can begin so as not to interfere with his dreams of the duo opening a restaurant together one day? But, what aboot Liz? I mean, once she lost the leading lady role, why not ruin the show for everybody? Then again, this could all be connected to whoever it was that gave Kylie the butcher knife taste test, back to make sure Roger’s amputated career never gets the chance to grow back. Speaking of, it could be Roger behind the mask! I mean, the killer’s not fat enough and hits notes too high and screechy to be Roger, and it would make no sense for Rog to sabotage (my new alias – Rog Sabotage) the production he hopes will put him back on top of the Broadway scene, but I learned long ago to stop giving movies the benefit of the doubt.

So, how do you solve a problem like Maria? Errr, by which I mean, how do you sum up a movie like Stage Fright? Well, if High School Musical and Sleepaway Camp had a Bartles & Jaymes regret-together one summer night, Stage Fright would be their Valentine’s Day partial birth abortion. Ever see Camp Blood: the Musical? Watch that instead. Less production value, but at least it doesn’t let you down when it comes to over-the-top summer camp killing with a dash of Gilbert & Sullivan. Stage Fright hints at the campiness of a Troma movie, but never goes so far as shooting ping pong balls out of its hot pocket. In fact, it ends its act and walks off stage without even taking off its top. I know not to expect a Troma production if there’s no Troma logo on the box, but I feel certain envelopes should’ve been pushed further than they were. This barely-R rated feature could’ve been bumped up to a soft NC-17 and nabbed a few more fun points for such absurdity in the process.

Some of the tunes are pretty catchy though (the end credits being the best), the gore (of what’s there) is pretty slick, I like the Kabuki theme of the slasher’s getup, the comedy works most of the time (the epilogue is an amusing *wink*wink* to slasher movie fans), and the acting’s actually pretty solid. Allie MacDonald? Young lady’s got chops. She does the shy/traumatized girl thing REALLY well and could get tears from a glass eye. The lass has got a set of pipes on her to be proud of too! I don’t go in for younger chicks as a general rule, but I think she’s talented enough that I’d make the exception. Besides, she’s applicable under the “half your age plus 7” rule with a few digits to spare, and this pic of her in a Black Flag shirt just seals the deal.

AllieBF

Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go pump some custard in her honor. As André Benjamin said, become the master of your own bation – the future is in your hand. I’m out like a boner in boxers! Later, gators!

Moral of the Story: Even if you find a place where you can feel safe and happy with like-minded people who support and appreciate you, there’s ALWAYS gonna be some crazy person in a mask waiting to kill you.

Screenshots_____

I appreciate the filmmakers’ dedication to the truth here. It always bothered me that John McNaughton didn’t have the balls to keep the real life break dancing segments in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.


Billy and Sarah have the misfortune of attending one of the “Sesame Street” tapings where the actor playing Big Bird shows up drunk… and without any pants.


Minnie Driver tried one of those do-it-yourself plastic surgery kits to shave a few inches off of her jawbone. Kids? Leave medical procedures to the professionals.


I know that look – she wasn’t paying attention to her calender and woke up REALLY wishing she’d put in a tampon before bed… looks like someone’s getting a new mattress!


Good thing there’s a summer camp specifically for kids like this. It’s the only way most of them will ever get the chance to lose their virginity.


I asked a First Nations representative which aboriginal spirit this totem represents, and he told me to give back his land or get the fuck out. I tried offering him some beads and trinkets, but he just had security stuff my pants full of arrowheads, wrap me in a smallpox infected blanket, and roll me down a steep hill!


An recently uncovered production still from Ed Wood’s long lost film adaptation of Phantom of the Opera!


If that guy doesn’t have a work glove with razor blades on the fingertips, a rusty pitchfork, and several rolls of duct tape in the trunk of his car, I’ll be very surprised.


This may look odd to some, but he was hired to perform a puppet show at Lucille Bluth’s birthday party. I’m afraid I just blue myself… NO TOUCHING! TV SHOW QUOTES!


Okay, these Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequels are going a little too far back into Leatherface’s history now.


I feel like this was a concept originally done in one of those sticker trading card sets from the ’90s about parody products of known brand names. Like the ones in this link.


Meat Loaf is Chris Farley in Tommy Boy 2: No, Not Black Sheep. Not since Blues Brothers 2000 has a beloved comedian’s legacy been so completely shit upon!


“I’ll need my assistant’s help with my next trick, which I call, “The Reverse Uncle Fester”!


Pro-tip: you might wanna use a mirror when you put on your eyeshadow.


You kids these days with your pierced I-don’t-know-whats! Unless you’re the Bionic Woman, you shouldn’t have more metal in your head than bone! You go take those things out this minute, young lady, and you let those holes heal shut!


I don’t know what she needs with a lantern when she’s got a perfectly good pair of headlights! SHAZAM!

Anubis will return next time in
“Children of a Lesser Godzilla”

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