Review: Stag Night of the Dead (15) / Directed and written by: Neil ‘Napoleon’ Jones / Starring: Sebastian Street, Sophie Lovell Anderson, Joe Rainbow, Mike Busson, Rez Kempton, Bruce Lawrence, James G Fain, Doug Grant, Jeff Rudom / Released: Out now
The general problem with horror comedies is that they’re neither one thing nor the other. Because they’re trying to be funny the horror doesn’t really work because the drive to be funny just dilutes the horror and, more often than not, the humour doesn’t work because it’s weak and insipid anyway, unless it's knowing and referential like ‘Shaun of the Dead’. ‘Stag Night of the Dead’ wants to be ‘Shaun’ so much it’s almost painful to watch because it doesn’t have the budget, the script or the high class performers of ‘Shaun’ so, inevitably, it ends up looking like a cheap, lazy and rather belated rip-off. But, like so many of its ilk, it just ain’t horrific and it sure ain’t especially funny. Despite all this, though, it does have a sort of desperate sleazy charm and there are a few flashes of inventiveness and originality somewhere amidst all this oh-so-familiar zombie nonsense.
For once we’re not in the middle of an all-out zombie apocalypse. There’s been an outbreak, it seems, but it’s under control and the surviving zombies have been rounded up and herded into an American Air Force base out in the English countryside where experimental research has turned into a ’paintball’ style shooting experience called ’Zomball’. Cue a bunch of drunken, irritating lads in a stretch limo on a stag night (weekend?) - with a stripper in tow for reasons I couldn’t quite get my head around - and before long (again for reasons which don’t make a lot of sense) a drunken war game becomes a fight for survival as the zombies… oh, really, do I have to spell it out??
This is cheap film-making, let’s make no bones about it. The movie looks as if it was shot on someone’s mobile phone and the acting is rarely better than acceptable and often downright appalling, with only the ‘stag’ Dean (Street) and his womanising best man (Lawrence) making much of an effort but Joe Rainbow deserves a special mention for his spectacularly-irritating and stereotypical sub-Ali G turn as the hapless ‘DJ Ronny’. To his credit, writer/director Neil Jones has clearly tried to do something a bit different in a genre which is almost laughably played-out by now and his script has the odd inspired moment which keeps your attention even when every fibre of your being tells you this isn’t going to be a great movie experience. The ‘Ghostbusters’-style proton pack gun devices the stag gang used to ‘zap’ the zombies look pretty cool and Jones uses his camera (mobile or otherwise) to frame a few quite impressive shots and while the zombies suffer from budgetary restrictions and there’s nothing new in the sequences where they attack the stag party, there’s one scene which stands out because I’ve never before seen a zombie’s hand pass right through the back of a man’s head and come out of his mouth. Yet it still isn’t horrific…
I’d love to be able to rip ‘Stag Night of the Dead’ to shreds, zombie-style, but the truth is, whilst it’s not hugely accomplished and its cheap DV camerawork makes it more of a chore to watch than it needs to be, it’s an inoffensive enough experience made with enthusiasm, energy and a script which is quite a bit better than it might be expected to be. I really can‘t bring myself to recommend ‘Stag Night of the Dead’ but it really is a quintessential Friday night beer and pizza movie which is guaranteed to elicit a few guffaws, even if not necessarily for the reasons its makers might have intended.
Special features: 23-minute ‘making of’ feature, zombie make-up feature, deleted scenes, out-takes, stills gallery, commentary.