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STUDIO: Lions Gate
RUNNING TIME: 83 miniutes
• Making Of Featurette
Descent 3: The Subways Have Eyes
Starring Kip Pardue, Breckin Meyer, Vinessa Shaw, Scott Adkins, Karl Geary
Written and directed by Peter A. Dowling
Mike (Pardue) has followed the American path by meeting a nice girl in college, dating, and now the next step: marriage. Before he walks down the aisle, naturally, he has to have his buddies – Tony (Meyer), Carl (Adkins), and Joe (Geary) – take him out in NYC for an evening of debauchery and excessive displays of masculinity called a bachelor party. Or, as we learn, also called a stag night. But once Tony – Mike’s asshole brother – harasses some strippers on the late-night train, the guys and these two ladies end up off the train at an abandoned station, locked off from the world above. Definitely an inconvenience in most cases, but this isn’t most cases. It’s not long before they see a group of underground dwellers massacre a police officer (how he got there, we never find out, but it’s a nice plot device!) and end up running for their lives for the rest of the night.
Turns out the whole movie is just a really exaggerated attempt to teach people to never, ever jump the turnstiles at the subway station.
Usually you get a horror movie that spends the first 45 minutes with barely a scare, attempting to build up tension through atmosphere and getting to know the pawns who will inevitably end up slashed to pieces. Or, the massacre starts off the bat and there’s not enough meet-and-greet for us to even remotely care about the human carnage. Refreshingly, Stag Night is one of those rare horror movies that actually gets right to the action without sacrificing character development. A welcomed surprise for this entry in the canon of mutant cannibals preying on unsuspecting twenty-somethings.
Dowling directs from his own script and it’s evident early on that, while he purposely wrote something that could be shot on the cheap with a minimum number of sets, he took care in crafting living, breathing characters with interpersonal conflicts that make them more than simply fleshbags ripe for the wrecking. It’s not a novel concept really, but Dowling pulls it off better than usual by having the exposition masked through scenes that actually push the plot forward rather than just be stagnant set-up moments. As the motley crue of two stripper friends just wanting to get home reluctantly following the now sobering-up bachelor boys down the subway tracks, we get to know them all better through their dialogue that, instead of being the usual dudes hitting on strippers, gets brought out through asshole Tony’s constant heckling of the girls and the other guys defending them. The dynamics feel real. These are two brothers who don’t get along – and haven’t for a while – yet Mike still has that sense of sibling responsibility to include Tony despite the fact that he’s a total dick. When we first meet Tony he’s getting kicked out of the strip club and trying to fight both the bouncer and the club promoter, clearly a losing battle when you’re the size of Breckin Meyer.
Rob Zombie contemplates life after Halloween but doesn’t seem to find anything he likes.
The script gives the actors a lot to work from, which plays out even better on screen with the talents of actually solid actors at the helm. I’m not sure what happened to Kip Pardue over the past decade; he fell off the map after breaking out in Remember The Titans, stealing his scenes in The Rules Of Attraction, and going mainstream with Stallone in Driven. Perhaps Stallone’s colossal failure was enough to derail Pardue’s burgeoning career. Either way, the guy has chops and an instant likeability about him that betrays his frat boy looks, allowing us to root for him instantly. It doesn’t hurt that he’s able to elevate hum-drum dialogue about not having too much fun at the strip club when talking to his fiance — it actually feels like he’s talking to his girlfriend. Vinessa Shaw is quite capable as Brita despite being a cliche of a stripper who is just paying her way through Columbia University. She acts as the platonic love interest for Mike, which plays out in a fresh way in that it doesn’t get sexual. I know, it’s a horror flick with strippers so you’re going: where’re the tits!? (Don’t worry, there are one-and-a-half, briefly, but they’re not from Shaw.) Dowling makes a good choice in this case: were Mike and Brita to hook up through these trials and tribulations, Mike would become a piece of shit who cheats on his fiance just because freaky cannibals are trying to kill them. Instead they develop more of a brother/sister thing and it adds more gravitas to the flick this way.
Meyer also is a welcomed presence on screen in a much different role than we’re used to seeing him play. Normally he’s the friendly sidekick, the comedic break through his clueless stoner schtick. This time around he uses those same ticks that make him funny and loveable to make him downright annoying and contemptible. He’s just a dick, and portrays it very well: with humanity. It’s evident through their casting and the subtext that Tony is the black sheep of the family while Mike is the chosen one — and that constant reminder hasn’t helped Tony through the years. Their tension ups the ante of the suspense and drama created by the situation itself.
Hey, I mean, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
And the situation is pretty damned tense. The concept is basic: group of twentysomethings trapped in the subways under NYC with a group of cannibalistic human underground dwellers hunting them down and slaughtering them Agatha Christie-style. Dowling, though, adds some interesting ideas of his own. During their search for a way out, the group happens upon a tiny community of people, like some sort of underground market stuck in the feudal European times. At first they seem like they’ll be helpful to them but end up having their own agenda. It’s enough to add more depth to this world than just having backwards, grunting psycho dreadlocked cavemen-types randomly living in the subway system killing people who happen to get stuck down there. Dowling keeps everything moving quickly, packing his scenes full of energy. It doesn’t really lag at any point.
Great scott! That subway was actually a time machine!
The main knock on the flick would be its lack of awesome kills. Most likely this is due to the tiny budget – it was shot in Bulgaria standing in for The Big Apple, after all – and putting the money in the sets (especially the mobile home lair of the cannibals) probably makes the film, as a whole, work better than putting it into only death effects. Still, when the best death of the movie, involving a cannibal’s head and switching train track, literally had me yelling “YES!” at the TV screen, I wanted just a little bit more considering some of the others left me a bit wanting. Especially, the other stripper’s death scene, which felt like it was shot with the same style and quality of a Rescue 911 reenactment — that grainy, blurry slo-mo, shaky-cam technique that tries to create motion and energy where there really is none. Plus we don’t see anything other than some slashing in the grainy dark with some CG blood spurts. Hi-def video has come a long way lately, but shooting in the dark almost always reveals the limitations of the medium by creating an extremely grainy, flat image in low light.
Admittedly, these are small gripes with an overall solid little horror flick that, should you be in the mood, is well worth the under-90-minutes of your time.
That’s either CG blood, or a rocket flying into his chest. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.
Some movies just don’t benefit from the added clarity of high-definition. This is one of them. It’s clear that they didn’t have a ton of money when making this film and weren’t shooting with the best of cameras. It looks very much like it was shot on video with the grain ranging from merely high to miniDV levels throughout the film depending on just how little light there was in the frame. All of this gets accentuated by the Blu-ray presentation. Unfortunately, so does the soundtrack. The audio is actually solid, but the musical score sounds like an early-2000s German rock rip-off of John Carpenter’s Halloween musical theme. That is to say, it’s atrocious; easily one of the worst aspects of the film. Again, none of this is bad enough to completely detract from the merits of Stag Night. But you’d be just fine watching this one on DVD.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Gnar couldn’t remember where he left his axe until his new friend reminded him he left it where he always kept it: in his skull.