We’ve gotten to the point with our Salem Horror Fest coverage where we find ourselves questioning what should go into a great film review? Do you want the entire plot spoiled for you so as to highlight how clever certain moments are or do you keep it vague and general? Especially with Stag from director and writer Alexandra Spieth and its’ slow build to big reveals. We’ll keep it contained for now because who doesn’t like a surprise or two or three?
Believe it or not, Stag is our second “Bachelorette Party Goes Awry” movie screened during this year’s Salem Horror Fest! Is it the better one? Well, we guess that depends on your preference. Like some monsters crashing your party? Then Spider One’s Bury The Bride (Reviewed here) is for you! Dig human Horror a little more with less gore? Then Stag it is!
Jenny (Mary Glen Fredrick) and Mandy (Elizabeth Ramos) used to be super tight. Then something happened in college and they haven’t spoken since. That is until Jenny, upon finding an Instagram post announcing Mandy’s engagement, decides to use her telemarketer database to find and reach out of the blue to congratulate her. Mandy, who now goes by “Amanda”, is a little standoffish over the phone but soon their old dynamic returns and she decides to invite Jenny to her Bachelorette Party happening that weekend at a secluded camp owned by her Maid Of Honor’s family. You can already see the writing on the wall, right?
Filled with Horror Movie tropes that are so blatant that they’re almost comical (Car breakdowns, creepy groundskeeper, Stepford Wives-style main friends…), Stag hits on so many levels with Jenny and Amanda’s estranged relationship and the mystery of what tore them apart at its’ core. Circling their story, and along for the weekend hijinx, are sisters Willa (Liana Hunt) and Casey (Stephanie Hogan), Constance (Katie Wieland), and Leslie (Safiya Harris). Maid Of Honor Willa is kind of a stickler for rules and more than a little too stuck to her weekend checklist of activities so when surprise guest Jenny shows up the tension and power struggle between the former and current besties is palpable. Luckily, Amanda/Mandy is there to diffuse the situation as are kind of ditzy Casey, low-key Leslie, and kinda constantly drunk Constance (Wieland is increasingly more hilarious as the weekend progresses).
Over the course of the weekend, Jenny’s suspicions continue to mount and the paranoia surrounding Mandy’s new friends escalates. Not helping is the campfire story of Lane Thomas who was brutally murdered at the camp decades previous or that Jenny is seemingly intentionally isolated from the group by Willa (She’s placed in her own cabin away from the rest of the group with “we didn’t know you were coming” as an excuse) or groundskeeper Devon (Daniel Boyd) just being fucking weird ALL THE TIME or, oh yeah, Constance apparently disappearing with only a “She does that” offered as a reason from the group with Mandy in agreement.
So what’s going on? Is Jenny just jealous/paranoid? Are her suspicions correct? Where did Constance go and, more importantly, will she come back? What’s the mystery of the camp? What happened to Mandy to ruin her friendship with Jenny? See, if we went the spoiler route you’d know all that by the end of this piece. Bet you’re regretting that decision right now, ain’tcha???
Helping with all the awkward to awfulness is the score by Adam Kromelow & Daniel Rufolo that’s equally quirky, offsetting, haunting and playful with choral passages at times while at others, stirring to somber to hopeful. Add Cinematography by Caroline Mariko Stucky that’s both gorgeous and ghoulish to behold depending on the scene (And some particularly clever camera work during a scene where the ladies take some psychedelics as part of Willa’s schedule) all under the watchful eye of Spieth (Complete with a truly touching emotional peak toward film’s end) and you have one total Horror package in Stag.
Stag (A Blank My Life Productions Film and In Association With Night Spark Pictures) was a part of the 2023 Salem Horror Fest but is still making the rounds on the festival circuit. For more information, and to find out where you can catch Stag, head here.