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STAG NIGHT
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Peter A. Dowling

Starring:
Kip Pardue
Breckin Meyer
Vinessa Shaw
Scott Atkins

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

After getting kicked out of a strip club bachelor party, four friends decide to take the party elsewhere. They board the New York subway and get into a bit of a fight with two strippers. When one of the women uses a bit too much mace, the group is forced to leave the car when it stops briefly at a closed station, and are subsequently trapped when the train leaves. If they wanna get out, they're going to have to trudge through the subway tunnels to the next stop. Problem is, they've got to deal with some nasty-looking cannibals that inhabit the tunnels.

Is it good movie?

Subways have always been a curiosity for me. By day, they're a fun way to get around (at least in Toronto). By night, it gets creepy with the weirdos coming out. This makes for ripe breeding grounds for the horror genre, as many films have taken the idea and run with it. Along comes director Peter A. Dowling, who takes the idea of being trapped underground with folks who like to munch on other folks and churns out STAG NIGHT. I say 'churns out' because like PSYCH: 9, there's no other way to describe a film this derivative.

To it's credit, the film doesn't waste time with character development and the like. Rather, the film almost immediately gets to the red stuff and squeezes in a few character development moments in amongst the running and the arterial sprays. It's not like the one-note stereotypes we have in this film are worth exploring, anyways. The acting doesn't have anyone standing out amongst the rest, although it's clear that Kip Pardue is the one to follow for this ride, seeing as his buddies are lunchmeat material from the start. He gives a decent heroic performance amongst the bad dialogue he and the rest of the cast are forced to spew.

Like PSYCH: 9, STAG NIGHT's production design of a spooky-looking environment is great. I've never been to New York, but from the looks of things, the subway doesn't exactly look like a place I'd want to be after dark. Dark, dank and wet, the film certainly establishes that our heroes fodder are in a world of hurt. Add to that the liberal use of guts and bloodsprays, it's easy to see how fun this could've been.

That's about as kind as I can be to a film like this, as it's filled with so many clichés of the horror genre that it's as if Dowling was using the horror equivalent of 'Horror Movies For Dummies'. One-dimensional characters who you know will die? A predictable (and stereotypical) opening sequence? Darkly lit (or hardly at all) environments? Two lovers screwing after smoking a joint that get hacked up? The discovery of the monsters' lair that ultimately involves our heroes being trapped when the monsters return home? Do I even need to go on? It's all here, and we've all seen it before in much better films. Even the pull quote, 'Reminiscent of 28 DAYS LATER', sounds like a stretch by the filmmakers to make people want to see this film. What happened to the new crop of filmmakers that Sam Raimi wanted for the Ghost House Underground label? You know, the ones who wanted to do something new? PSYCH: 9 at least tried to be creative in its copying. STAG NIGHT gives even less effort.

It's kind of sad. STAG NIGHT could've been a fun ride if someone had at least tried to expand upon the initial idea. Instead, we get the same tired path that so many other filmmakers have walked in trying to make a name for themselves. This was an even bigger chore to sit through, and I didn't even have anyone to watch it with to ease the pain. Apart from a cool-looking locale, the film didn't bring anything new to the table and it showed.

Video / Audio

Video: This is one of the strangest transfers that I've seen in a while. What looks to have been cobbled together from various sources, this 1080p AVC 1.78:1 widescreen is either sharp one moment and fuzzy the next. Seeing as the film is shot in low light for the majority of its runtime, there's film noise galore with weak contrast of black shadows on slightly less black backgrounds. The parts that are slightly lit fare better than those darker scenes, with good saturation of colour and detail.

Audio: The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track fares better than the video, that's for sure. There are some nice attempts at immersing the viewer with ambient effects of the subway (water dripping, subway car screeches), but nothing really stands out. Dialogue is clear, but again sounds flat when compared to the rest of the sounds.

The Extras

I had no idea what to expect with the sole extra, The Making of Stag Night. What I did get was virtually the entire film in 35 minutes! Seriously, the doc spoils almost all of the film by detailing all of the twists. There are also EPK fluff interviews with the director and cast here, as well as Dowling stating that he figured that a horror film would be a good way to get his foot in the door as a Hollywood filmmaker, using it as the same springboard. Wow, shows how much he cares about and respects the genre. No wonder the film feels like a rip-off.

Oh, and the doc is in SD and letterboxed, so it makes it seem you have tunnel vision while watching it.

Closing things out is the film's theatrical trailer. There are also startup trailers for other Lionsgate and Ghost House Underground films.

Last Call

Avoid STAG NIGHT. After hearing director Peter A. Dowling basically state that he used the film (which was shot in 2007, mind you) as a way to get into Hollywood is a slap in the face to the genre and its fans. The backhand comes from the actual film itself, which is clichéd as all hell and brings nothing new to the table. About the only redeeming factor is the 35-minute making-of doc that spoils virtually all of the twists in the film so you don't have to sit through the entire thing. F*ck this.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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