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Stag Night

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // February 15, 2011
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 6, 2011 | E-mail the Author
"Reminiscent of 28 Days Later!"

I kinda knew what I was in for when I realized that was the best Stag Night could dig up for a cover blurb. "Oh! This movie vaguely reminds me of another movie, sort of!" Why they
latch onto 28 Days Later -- which they use again as a point of reference in the extras -- I have no idea. Instead, think Wrong Turn or The Hills Have Eyes in a bunch of old subway tunnels.

With wedding balls just about to start clanging, Mike (Kip Pardue) is making the most of his last few hours of freedom with a couple of his pals (Scott Adkins and Karl Geary). His fuck-up kid brother Tony (Breckin Meyer) just got 'em kicked out of some sleazy strip club downtown, so they all decide to hop on the subway to keep the party going somewhere else. Tony + a couple of strippers in the same car + mace = getting stranded in a pretty much abandoned stretch of the labyrinthine tunnels under Manhattan. The gates are all locked up tight. The last time anyone was down here, Paul Anka was still topping the charts. If they wanna get out, they're going to have to trudge through the subway tunnels to the next stop. They just have to keep an eye out for three things: (1) rats, (2) that third rail since it's electrified and all, and (3) cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. Yeah, turns out the subway is teeming with extras from a Rob Zombie cover shoot, complete with long, scraggly beards, matted dreadlocks, and smudged, dirty faces. Oh! And homebrew axes and stuff.

I mean, there's no real point in recapping the rest of the plot from there since it plays like someone grabbed a How to Write a Horror Movie paint-by-number book from Stuckey's. A pre-credit sequence that picks up as a pretty and slightly bloodied girl is being chased by some unseen creature before being killed offscreen? Check. Lotsa time spent getting to know the bland, one-note characters who'd slowly be killed off over the next seventy-however-many minutes? Check. Two of 'em light up a joint and start screwing on an old subway platform. Think they'll be the first to be attacked? Yup. Do their pals stumble upon the lair of these morlocks, dig through a big pile of the killers' strange, grisly mementos, and then get caught by surprise when the badniks come back home? Check, check, and check. You've got the obligatory bit where the survivors cower in silence as the madmen are on the prowl on the floorboards right above them, the wounded dude who sacrifices himself to save his friends, the
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we-think-it's-sanctuary-but-they're-gonna-betray-us deal...rattle off a stock genre cliché, and chances are it's in here somewhere. I mean, there's even a hand-on-the-shoulder jump scare. The only thing Stag Night's missing is a cat jumping out from the middle of nowhere, or maybe the wizened old timer who's supposed to lob out all the exposition.

Look, I'm okay with derivative. I follow derivative on Twitter. We send each other Christmas cards. I really don't have any problem with horror flicks this aggressively generic, just as long as they're done well. A little witty banter, a couple of cacklingly demented kills, some slick visuals...just gimme something, y'know? Stag Night doesn't really try. It's a parade of boring characters pitted against boring, morlocky nutjobs who slaughter 'em in generally boring ways. It doesn't take more than two or three words to fully sum up each character in the flick. The only one who's all that memorable is Brita (Vinessa Shaw), and that's just because she's a stripper-slash-history major who speaks about the ancient origins of the bachelor party, and...did you know once upon a time that this tradition was known as "stag night"? Infotainment! It's one of those movies where stupid people keep doing stupid things 'cause otherwise there wouldn't be a body count, so the survivors are constantly screaming and kicking things so the CHUDs can chase them down. Maybe it's not fair to call them CHUDs since we never see them eat people...they just hack off body parts and feed them to their doggies...but I'll stick with it anyway. Only a couple of the kills are all that creative, and a lot of the splatter is sloshed around off-screen. The make-up effects might be great, but I can't really tell since Stag Night looks like it was lit with a Zippo and a Strawberry Shortcake nightlight, and the camerawork is so unwatchably jittery. The aesthetic of the whole thing is pretty abysmal. It's going for grim and gritty, I think, but it just comes across as low-rent. The Shakicam is grossly overused, and when they start skipping frames or heaping on slo-mo, I kinda just stop and wonder...why? The flipside of the Blu-ray case makes a big deal about how Stag Night is executive produced by a couple of guys with real movie credits. Didn't anyone take a peek at the dailies and cringe?

Writer/director Peter A. Dowling makes it pretty clear in his interview on this disc that he figured horror would be a good way to get his foot in the door as a filmmaker, using it as the same springboard the way so many music video directors have on their way to Hollywood. Stag Night really isn't much of a calling card. Dowling's direction is crude and artless, nothing in the flick is infused with any imagination or energy, and...well, it's really not hard to see why no one wanted it. Stag Night was shot in 2007 or so, and although it did manage to escape in a few other countries, it took all these years for someone to get around to dumping it straight to video on these shores. We're barely into February, and I think I already have a frontrunner for the Worst of 2011 list. Skip It.

Ack. Can I stop at "ack"? That's kind of a review, right? Anyway, Stag Night looks
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rough. The opening titles are plagued by some of the worst banding I've stumbled across in a really, really long time. Whatever film stock it is these guys fished out of a closet in Bulgaria, it doesn't hold up well at all under low light. As luck would have it, 94% of the movie is shot in dark, underlit subway tunnels. That means you're treated to awesome visuals like black silhouettes shambling around in front of a slightly less black background. Contrast is limp and lifeless, there really isn't any meaningful detail to speak of, and the image is swarming with noise, the weight of which can vary wildly from shot to shot. Even though Stag Night was primarily shot on film, there are pickup shots -- or, I dunno, straight-up stock footage -- that are clearly sourced from native high-def video, and the two don't cut together at all. So, yeah. Not too many stars in the sidebar here.

Stag Night's served up on a single layer platter. The movie's presented on Blu-ray at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and has been encoded with AVC.

This Blu-ray disc dishes out all the right technical specs -- DTS-HD Master Audio! 5.1 surround sound! 24-bit audio! -- but there's nothing even a little bit cinematic about it. The score takes a stab at being ominous and foreboding but never crackles with ferocity the way it wants. Dialogue, music, and sound effects all flat and sound kind of muddled together. The distinctness and clarity I'm usually spoiled with on Blu-ray are completely missing in action this time around. The stings in the score aren't reinforced by any meaningful amount of bass. The surrounds aren't used all that effectively...just the standard issue rainfall, slow drips of water underground, and a couple of kicked cans or whatever to let you know someone is there. It's a bland mix dragged down even further by substandard recording. If I'd stacked this up next to a lossy Dolby Digital track, I'm kind of doubting I'd be able to pick out any differences at all.

There aren't any dubs or downmixes. Subtitles are limited to English (traditional and SDH) and Spanish.

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  • The Making of Stag Night (35 min.; SD): Gotta admit that I'm not sure what to make of this half-hour featurette. I shrugged it off at first as a promotional EPK since it's so heavy on recapping the premise, spelling out what each and every character does in the story, and lobbing out clip after clip after clip. At the same time, though, it gives away every kill and every twist in the flick. It's too loaded with filler for anyone who's seen the movie but is too fat-packed with spoilers for anyone who hasn't. There are a couple of very cursory comments about the overall concept I found interesting, such as the deliberate lack of social commentary and Peter A. Dowling avoiding the spam-in-a-cabin cliché for his first horror flick, but it's really not worth wading through the rest of this dreck to get there. The only thing this featurette does well is tackle each and every one of the kills...lots of behind-the-scenes footage and in-depth details about the make-up effects.

    Not only is "The Making of Stag Night" not in high-def, but it's letterboxed in non-anamorphic widescreen. Unless you set your HDTV to zoom in, you'll get black bars on all four sides of the screen. I had no idea production companies still did that.

  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): Toss in a standard-def trailer, and that's it.

The Final Word
Nope. Skip It.
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