My hardcore love of both Meat Loaf and slasher films began around the same time, so I was pretty stoked to see the two come together almost exactly 20 years later for Stage Fright, a comedic slasher/musical that pitted a hard-rock loving masked killer against the students and staff of a band camp (run by Loaf's character). The film was the feature debut for Jerome Sable, who along with Stage cowriter Eli Batalion created the brilliant short The Legend of Beaver Dam - if you haven't seen it stop everything you're doing (which is reading this article, if my understanding of the time-space continuum is correct) and check it out.
Admittedly, the film wasn't as great as I'd hoped - after a terrific first 10 minutes, the story (and songs) slow down, making the movie feel a bit aimless before coming back to life (and then some) for the third act. It's probably not too surprising given that Sable was coming from a short background - such fare often demands a quick hook and a great ending, without much of a middle, so it makes sense that would be the weak spot in his first full length film. Indeed, the trailer mostly focuses on the film's terrific third act, when the production of "The Haunting of the Opera" (a clear imitation/homage to you know what) is finally underway and the Kabuki Killer is wreaking the most havoc. As with Sleepaway Camp, any early murders had to look like accidents or else the camp would close prematurely, forcing the filmmakers to keep from really embracing their slasher scenario until the "final night" - this is the sort of shit Jason didn't have to deal with in most of the Friday the 13ths (the camp was never actually open for business except in the 6th film).
But the songs are mostly catchy and the kills are plenty gory, and even though the energy lulls a bit in the middle it's still a fun, admirably unique entry in the slasher canon - something that makes it easy for me to forgive its flaws. As I've pointed out on social media once or twice, we are now as far removed from Scream as Scream was from Halloween when it was released, and I honestly cannot remember the last non-remake/sequel slasher film to hit the multiplexes (might even be My Soul To Take). That, coupled with the fact that audiences haven't seemed much interested in supernatural/possession fare this year at the box office, signals to me that it's time for a slasher revival - we just need someone to swing for the fences like these folks did. I doubt these sort of movies will ever be as financially successful as they were in the early 80s or late 90s, but with someone like Sable at least putting forth the effort into reviving the sub-genre, we can at least be witness to a CREATIVE rebirth of this beloved staple of the horror world. And if Meat Loaf wants to be in them (singing or not*), then all the better.
Alas, like far too much original horror fare these days, the film's theatrical release was secondary to its VOD platforms, so I never got a chance to see it with a crowd (where these movies almost always tend to play better).
Thus, I'm pretty excited that the Cinefamily here in Los Angeles will be showing the film as part of their Friday Night Frights series next Friday, July 25th at 11:59pm, as I'm curious to see if works better than it did by myself at home. But there's an even bigger bonus, at least for me - Meat Loaf himself will be on hand for a Q&A! In all the years I've lived here I don't think I've ever heard of Meat doing a Q&A for one of his films (he's been in over 70 films at this point), so this is pretty goddamn exciting and historic, if you ask me. Sable will also be there, so if the trailer enticed you, head over to the Cinefamily page to buy tickets, as this will likely be a sold out show. See you there, I'll be the guy clapping loudest when Mr. Loaf takes the stage. Bummer, this event has been CANCELED! Meat Loaf pulled out!
*Believe it or not, Stage Fright is actually one of the very few films where he plays a singing character. He takes his acting very serious, refusing to just transplant his rock star persona into a movie.