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Stag Night (2008)
Writer and director: Peter A. Dowling

review by Matthew S. Dent

Underground railways are inherently scary places: all those dark corners, with metres of earth and concrete separating you from fresh air and safety. Who knows what could be lurking in the darkness? So, it's hardly surprising that there are a number of films set in the dingy tunnels of underground railways. Stag Night is the latest of these, and it tries to bring new waves of terror to the New York subway; 'tries' being the operative word.

The plot follows a bunch of 20-something men out on the titular 'stag night', who get kicked out of a club, and then meet up with a couple of women on a late night tube train. After starting a fight with the women, the whole group gets off at a disused station, where the train leaves them behind. Predictably then, the intrepid group of character-devoid machete-fodder decides to trek down the dark tunnel to the next station, in search of an escape route. Thereupon, they run into a trio of vagrants-come-psychos, and we launch into a protracted and rather grisly chase scene.

I have no problem with any of this. Creep managed to do the same thing with the London Underground, and had characters every bit as vapid and ill defined. But it didn't try to shoehorn in a subterranean hobo-utopia. One psychotic living in disused underground tunnels I can buy. Even three nutcases is believable. The moment I start having trouble is when you stick hobo-topilis down there along with the three nuts-keteers and make everyone a few stops short of the district line.

Aside from general implausibility, there were two major problems I felt Stag Night had. The first was the bad guys. Our trio of homeless psychos seem to maraud around the underground network killing and eating hapless lost passengers, murdering police officers, and breeding dogs. Why, I hear you ask? Answers on a postcard, please...

Presumably, the fact that no reason is given why they're rampaging around is supposed to increase the fear, but in practice it just ramps up the confusion. Especially for the supposed heroes, whom I assume we're supposed to sympathise with against the animalistic monsters. But it's a task made more difficult by the fact that all of them possessed only a single character trait.

Now, it doesn't commit the sin that horror films frequently pull off, wherein the 'heroes' are so un-likeable that you're cheering for the bad guy(s) to eviscerate them. But perhaps its transgression is more serious. I connect so little with the characters, and they are so two-dimensional, that I just don't care. Honestly, I was not in the least bothered whether they made it out alive or not. Maybe I leaned slightly towards a quick and bloody death for them all, but only so that it would be over that bit quicker.

In the end, I was wishing that I'd taken the choice of the one sensible 'hero', and decided to leave before any of it kicked off. Just go home, not bother, and maybe watch Creep on DVD, because for all that Creep was far from a perfect film, it registered as more than the faint and meagre blip on my radar that Stag Night represented.

Stag Night



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