Starring Allie MacDonald (last seen singing in "Score: A Hockey Musical"), Meat Loaf (yes, that Meat Loaf) and Minnie Driver, the gore-ridden operetta film literally puts the camp into a summer theatre camp setting. Director Sable, along with his music collaborator Eli Batalion, has been down this path before. Their previous collaboration, 2010's "The Legend of Beaver Dam," debuted during the Toronto Film Festival's Midnight Madness and roasted a similar kind of marshmallow, setting the template for this feature debut.
Moviefone Canada spoke to Sable and Batalion by phone about their latest musical/horror escapade.
Moviefone Canada: Speaking of horror, how brutal was the transition from moving from the short to this, your first feature?
Jerome Sable: Easy. [Laughs] It was definitely not easy.
Eli Batalion: Speak for yourself!
JS: It was one of those things where we were very ambitious for ourselves creatively. We had all of these things we wanted to do. We wanted to have different styles of composition in there and we had the idea of doing the orchestral, Gilbert and Sullivan style, for the campers and then the metal music for the killer. So even from a score standpoint it was a lot of complexity.
Only one of you is listed as the director, but the collaboration is obviously a strong one. How do you guys work together?
JS: The question makes me think immediately of that documentary "Six Days to Air" with Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The answer they give, which I love, is that it's the band, and it doesn't matter who exactly does what. It's the band and you can't break up the band. I feel similarly because we do carry out functions when it comes to other people being around and when we're on the set. But in terms of the flavour of the stability of the movie, it really is just another installment of our brand of silliness, of things we're interested in. We have this particular way of instinctively seeing the way scenes should be either in terms of the comedy or in terms of the horror or music or whatever.
What comes first, the music or the script?
EB: Definitely the script. We always do the script first, and then the lyrics, and then the music.
So, you can be a band, but somebody has to have final say.
JS: It's not a controversial issue at all, it's very straightforward. In this case, I wrote the screenplay and that was the story and the characters, the plot, the dialogue and all of that. We felt from there where there were going to be musical numbers. When it comes to writing musical numbers, we did it how we've always done it, for our plays and previous work, which is we try and understand what the song is about and who needs to express what.
EB: It's not dissimilar to how a musical theatre musical would be written, where you'd have the book written by an individual, and then you would have the songs, the music and lyrics being written, usually by other individuals. In this case, Jerome is the string that ties everything together.
After writing the songs, then, did you need to back and revise the script? Or did you need to revise songs as the story developed?
JS: There is one example in the movie that is so bizarre now in retrospect. We had a song written and recorded, all of the instruments and the temporary vocals, and it was performed on the set by the actors. Afterwards, in the editing process, we realized that the song was all wrong and we needed to change the song, but we couldn't do any re-shoots for the scene. We actually composed an entirely new piece of music, new lyrics and everything, and then retrofitted it to footage we knew we had in the dailies. It just played as if that was the song all along, but it's actually a completely different piece of music and none of the lyrics are the same.
You guys use the John Carpenter font ("Albertus") to give a shout out to '80s horror, and even stick in a "Jesus Christ Superstar" nod. How did you keep all these references from stumbling over one another?
JS: It's as if our brains are on some kind of ADD pop culture blender. The neurons fire, and there are all of the homages and winks and references to previous things. In our minds, for whatever reason, AC/DC swirls right around with Andrew Lloyd Webber
EB: We neglected to take our ADD medication, and this is the result.
JS: When it comes to camp, [as per] "Friday the 13th," it's just a natural place for a stalker to be stalking adolescents. It is a time of high emotion and high stakes. It's a time of sexual exploration and awakening, and everything is either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever, and that's exactly how theatre people are.
It's nice to see Meatloaf singing again, especially after his fabulous turn in both "Rocky Horror" and the tragically underloved "Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny." Was it these films that led you to want to cast him?
JS: Seeing "Pick of Destiny," we thought oh yeah, Meat Loaf, of course. Meat Loaf was always able to bring a different flavour to doing the long, narrative, bombastic musical kind of stuff because it's a different kind of flamboyance that he's doing.
Getting Minnie Driver is quite the coup, and a nice connection give that she's in the "Phantom of the Opera" movie. Did she have any reservations about her part?
JS: What was interesting when we first spoke was that I thought there was a certain amount of irony and satire in a British way [in the script]. I feel like there's a little bit of Monty Python required of every Brit, and so I felt like she got it on that level, and was interested.
She's never been in a horror movie and I don't think she's ever seen a horror movie, but she was able to access it because of the wink factor. That just speaks to her openness and sophisticated approach to things. Then after doing it, she was so appalled at the gruesome nature of her scene that she couldn't even watch it in [music and dialogue re-recording]. She liked it, but she also literally couldn't watch it.
That should be on your poster. "Minnie Driver: She literally couldn't watch it!"
JS: At some point she actually tweeted, "I can't believe I'm in this movie."
EB: That really should be on the poster.
JS: There are so many things that are interesting to us that may just be too weird for an average audience, or a random audience member. We just sort of follow the instincts and this just feels correct, or this should be a little more thrash metal, or that should be angrier, that should be more [flamboyant].
So, what do you guys think of what "Glee" has done for fans of musical theatre?
JS: The way I feel about "Glee" is the way I feel about California wine. The best climate, the best technology, and they produce so many great things. But I always drink Bordeaux from France.
"Stage Fright" opens in theatres on May 9.