In the era of remakes and revivals, love for the slasher genre has returned with a vengeance. But while movie tickets sell out, a new contender comes to steal the spotlight: musical theater.
The third installment of the popular Hatchetfield series, Nerdy Prudes Must Die (also known as NPMD) is the latest production by Starkid Productions, written by genius brothers Nick and Matt Lang. This musical theater powerhouse has done several parody and self-referential musicals in the past.
This horror-comedy follows a group of nerds who seek revenge on their bully Max with a prank that ends in a fatal three-story fall. Unfortunately for them, Max returns as a vengeful ghost hellbent on killing the so-called nerdy prudes he blames for his death. Thus ensues a race against time for the nerds to find a way to stop Max while the local cops close in on them.
Despite being a part of a longer storyline, Nerdy Prudes Must Die balances callbacks to its predecessors while standing well on its own. It takes well-loved tropes and successfully alters them while maintaining loyalty to the genre. Add in some eldritch deities, a cultish town secret, and a cop subplot, and NPMD becomes a melting pot of niches that come naturally to the eclectic story it tells.
The opening title, “High School is Killing Me,” directly ties into the idea of the teen’s struggle to survive high school, using violent language and choreography to perpetuate this notion. We’re also introduced to our three cliche-filled protagonists: sheltered and religious Grace Chastity, nervous nerd Pete Spankoffski, and rebellious party girl Stephanie Lauter.
Each character falls easily into a character type often found in slashers, but leans into them in a clever, self-aware way. Max shows a unique understanding bullies seldom have while also reiterating his status as a high school menace, as seen in “Literal Monster,” a song structured to show the nerds, the prey, being hunted by Max, the predator.
Grace Chastity, the only true nerdy prude of the friend group, kickstarts the rest of the story. Her forbidden attraction to Max drives her to prank him and subsequently hide his body, as seen in the cleverly named songs “Bully the Bully” and “Bury the Bully.” She ropes the other nerds into keeping quiet about their accidental manslaughter, a reference to I Know What You Did Last Summer with a nerdy twist.
Despite it leaning on the humorous aspect of horror-comedy, NPMD easily hits several emotional beats, making you care for Max’s victims with little time on stage. While Pete and Stephanie’s budding relationship begins as a cute distraction from the sex-crazed felonies Grace has been committing, it grows into something far larger than the climax of the musical hinges upon; they’re given the choice to sacrifice what they love most in order to stop Max, and what they cherish most is each other. Fair warning, however: “Cool as I Think I Am (Reprise)” will make you bawl your eyes out.
Nerdy Prudes Must Die is a love letter to teen slashers, displaying the evolution the genre has had over the decades in musical form. It is available to watch in its entirety on YouTube.