Ghost House Underground: Stag Night (US - BD RA)
Gabe watches another movie about cannibals living under New York...
On the way home from a strip club bachelor party, four friends (Kip Pardue, Breckin Meyer, Scott Adkins, Karl Geary) have a minor altercation with two young women (Vinessa Shaw, Sarah Barrand) aboard a New York City subway train. When one of the women unleashes a bit too much mace, the group is forced to leave the car when it stops briefly at a closed station, and are trapped when the train leaves. This minor inconvenience turns into a catastrophe when crazy, bloodthirsty cannibals show up, and proceed to chase them up and down the New York subway tunnels.
The Ghost House Underground series releases have really shrunk in the last three years. The first release date featured eight films, the second only four, and now we’ve got two releases separated by a week. I’ve compared the series to After Dark’s Horrorfest titles in the past, as both seem to feature medium-low budgeted horror flicks that aren’t impressive enough for Lionsgate to spend the extra cash for a proper theatrical release (truth be told: on average the Ghost House flicks are slightly better than After Dark’s). Stag Night follows this lead, and doesn’t disappoint based on these incredibly low expectations. There’s not a lot going on here, but there isn’t a lot to complain about either. This is a meat movie – the smorgasbord is spread with good looking victims, the monsters are introduced (they look like ‘90s era Rob Zombies), and the dinner bell is rung. The monsters chase the victims and whittle them down in violent ways. There’s no reason given to like any of the characters, monster or human, which is par for the course, but is a bummer for the actors, which are otherwise not bad. Director Peter A. Dowling does his best to cover his lack of skill with rough camera work and lots of gore, though not enough gore to set his film apart from a very busy field. The most troubling problem is that even at 83 minutes, this one overstays its welcome.
Stag Night’s most memorable attributes are those it shares with other, better movies. The first thing that springs to mind is the obvious – Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, a film I’m pretty sure Dowling wants us to draw comparisons to (Lionsgate even includes a quote from ‘STV-TV’ on the front of the box that reads ‘Reminiscent of 28 Days Later, which doesn’t strike as a ringing endorsement). Keeping in the realms of more recent productions, my attention was then aimed at Ryuhei Kitamura’s adaptation of Clive Barker’s Midnight Meat Train which also features flesh eating man-creatures dwelling in the New York subways. The locations and shaky camera work recall the monster-lice scenes from Matt Reeve’s Cloverfield. In the classic sense I’m reminded of Tobe Hooper’s seminal ‘crazy cannibal family’ movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wes Craven’s thematic follow-up The Hills Have Eyes, but the one ‘70s era film that Stag Night resembles on almost every level, from look to concept, and that is Gary Sherman’s Raw Meat (aka Death Line). Raw Meat takes place in London, and is based around a series of murders around the tube system that are eventually attributed to an assemblage of cannibalistic humans that live in a collapsed section of underground tunnels. Pretty much the same thing, just with a plot, interesting characters, and fun explanation for the monsters (based, apparently, on a ‘true’ story).
When I first started the film I assumed the pixilated edges on the bright red text were a stylistic choice, but the problem persists in a less serious capacity throughout the entire film. This is the only obvious shortcoming on the transfer, as Dowling and cinematographer Toby Moore aim for a modern cinema verite look, which doesn’t lend itself to gorgeous video quality. The camera (which I’m guessing is a digital model rather than a film model) is constantly wiggling about like a news camera trying to capture the action. This style isn’t conducive to sharp and clean images, especially not when the moody, dark lighting is taken into account. It’s often impossible to tell what’s happening during the more action driven sequences, but thanks to the HD video at least minor key lights can be discerned through squinting eyes. There’s a whole lot of grain, which keeps any of the harsher elements from appearing particularly pure, especially the more vibrant colours and brighter whites. Blacks are pretty solid, and remain so throughout the production.
Stag Night comes fitted with the Lionsgate standard 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Most of the busywork is delegated to the center channel, including dialogue (obviously), and the vast majority of sound effects, even stand out items like scare noises and ambient echoes. It’s almost impressive how many of the aggressive elements are left in the center channel. I listened very carefully, but didn’t notice many major directional effects anywhere in the track, with the exception of some brief movement during the louder subway train moments. Stag Night starts with an outstanding little theme that is reminiscent of John Carpenter’s earlier music, but later defaults mostly to a more modern (and boring) rhythm and ambience based score. The music fills the otherwise empty stereo and surround channels, and features a decent LFE presence, both in terms of pumping rhythms, and throbbing ambience.
The extras are mercifully brief, including a brief making-of featurette (34:50, SD), complete with fluffy interviews with the director and cast interspliced with footage from the film, a trailer, and trailers for other Lionsgate horror releases.
I’d recommend skipping Stag Night and going for one of the films that obviously inspired it, especially Raw Meat, which continues to go under-seen. If cheaply made, New York based pseudo-zombie movies with shaky, 28 Days Later inspired camera work is more your thing, than I suggest Jim Mickle’s Mulberry Street, which was released as part of the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest. The actors aren’t as professional, but the plot is a more interesting use of genre clichés, and the energy is of a higher octane.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 15th February 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Behind the Scenes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter A. Dowling
Cast: Breckin Meyer, Scott Adkins, Kip Pardue, Karl Geary
Length: 83 minutes
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