Soho Horror: Stag (2022)

Director: Alexandra Spieth

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Starring: Mary Glen Fredrick, Elizabeth Ramos, Liana Hunt, Stephanie Hogan, Safiya Harris, Katie Wieland, Daniel Boyd

While scrolling through social media, loner Jenny (Mary Glen Fredrick) discovers her old BFF, Mandy (Elizabeth Ramos), has gotten engaged. She reaches out to congratulate her estranged bestie, leading the pair to reminisce while tiptoeing around what sent them in different directions. Jenny ends up invited to the bachelorette party, although her hopes for redemption will be tested across the experience.

The party takes place on private land owned by a rich family, including routine-orientated maid-of-honour, Willa (Liana Hunt), and her kid-sister Casey (Stephanie Hogan). An uncertain feeling lingers across this isolated location, particularly when one-eyed groundskeeper Devon (Daniel Boyd) acts sinister, although it's matched with a lighter tone with the bridal party.

Writer/director Alexandra Spieth tries blending differing inspirations, feeling like the offspring of Bridesmaids and The Wicker Man, although there isn't a smooth way to bring them together. The film manages to deliver the humour and creepiness of both elements, although the tones clash in jarring ways. This is most evident during a sobering reveal that's immediately undercut by a jokey revelation.

Despite the relationships feeling exaggerated, the writing and performances ensure there's a believability which keeps them grounded. That's most clear in the core relationship, as something still lingers between the once-friends despite how much Jenny apologizes, with Fredrick fantastically capturing the characters regret and longing. Her anxieties about making things right are matched with mounting suspicions, as members of the bridal party keep vanishing and the property has a history involving a girl that was "sacrificed".

While there's few surprises regarding the mystery of what's happening, it's all in service of an often-engaging tale about people feeling the building pressures of marriage. Most crucial is how the central relationship is constantly in mind, effectively capturing these friends that miss each-other and just want to heal over their painful past.

Stag made its UK Premiere at SoHome Virtual Horror Fest 2022