Stag Night (UK DVD)

Stag NightReviewed by Gareth Jones

Starring Kip Pardue, Vinessa Shaw, Breckin Meyer, Karl Geary, Scott Adkins

Directed by Peter A. Dowling

Distributed by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment

The subway is always a great setting for a horror flick. That twisted notion that help lies just above, blissfully unaware of the terrors unfolding below, tickles me. With such a good setting it can be rather difficult to go too far off the rails, and gladly, the latest genre offering featuring the locale, Stag Night, certainly doesn’t.

The directorial debut of Flight Plan scribe Peter A. Dowling, Stag Night follows groom-to-be Mike (Kip Pardue) and his four friends out on the town for the titular event. When his bullish brother Tony (Breckin Meyer – playing the asshole really quite well) sees them ejected from a strip club, they decide to hop the tube to another venue. Encountering a couple of strippers on the train, once again Tony’s actions result in them bundling him off at an unscheduled stop – and the train subsequently takes off without them.

Stranded in a section of subway closed in the 70s, and with no phone reception, the group witness a security officer getting sliced and diced by a gang of homeless psychos. When they’re discovered, everyone finds themselves caught in a fight for survival against the machete-wielding “Tunnel Rats”.

Once everything kicks off, Stag Night is a surprisingly fast and furious piece of work. Under Dowling’s direction, the pace rarely ever lets up – only stopping to give the characters, and the audience, a brief breather or drop into some impressively tense “hide and hunt” scenarios before the chase is on once more. Visually, lighting amongst the dank environments is handled well with small elements such as tiles falling from a wall when someone is impaled lending the production design and direction that extra sense of focus. One death scene in particular is delivered with a very impressive synergy of score and visuals, obtaining real emotional resonance. Speaking of the score, Benedikt Brydern’s original music deserves mention for its perfect old-school fit amongst the carnage. It’s a simple yet effective piece of work that marries well to the movie without becoming overblown.

The cast perform well across the board with notable turns by not only Meyer but The Burrowers’ Karl Geary. Amongst the main players you’ll also notice martial arts champ Scott Adkins, who busts out exactly zero moves against his would-be butchers! Would have been nice to see him throw down against one of them, but it’s also comforting to know that he isn’t prepared to be typecast.

In terms of the gore factor, there’s enough here to satisfy most with multiple arterial sprays, messy decapitation, head crushing and more on display. Things get pretty damn splashy. The feral (and cannibalistic) “Tunnel Rats” are vicious pieces of work – snarling, grunting sub-humans who appear to exist only to hack and slash at their prey. It’s disheartening, then, that the villains are actually one of the film’s biggest issues. All of them look exactly the same – like the result of Rob Zombie, a caveman, and the killer from 1972’s Death Line (aka Raw Meat) stumbling into one of Seth Brundle’s transporter pods. Later plot elements help explain a little about how they operate down there, but Stag Night definitely would have benefitted from some more information and a bit more inventiveness in the character/visual design of our antagonists.

In the grand scheme of things, though, Stag Night is an impressive foray into the genre for Dowling and delivers enough above-par mayhem to make a recommendation. It’s straight forward, knows exactly what it is, and makes for a worthy and undemanding Saturday night fright flick.

While the movie hits DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on April 19th, the screener contained no special features, and none are listed amongst press materials or online retailers. Assume bare bones here, my friends.


3 1/2 out of 5

Special Features:

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Gareth Jones

Copywriter and critic sporting a lifelong obsession with all things horror. A little bit sane.

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