Making movies is a business. And that business is a cutthroat endeavour, relying on its producers to make money appear where needed and for work to get done when that comes up short. For some, that means maxing out credit cards or submitting one’s self to scientific experimentation. For others, it means taking advantage of a global pandemic to film a microbudget horror comedy in the woods. And that’s how writer/director Alexandra Spieth played it for Stag, her latest feature-length film. She recently wrote, directed, and starred in another horror comedy, 86’d. And this was after starring in and creating four seasons of her own web series called [Blank] My Life. So it makes sense given that level of output to get stuck back into the indie film scene despite the less-than-ideal circumstances rounding the corner.
Taking inspiration from horror classics like Midsommar and The Invitation, Stag sees its protagonist attending her estranged friend’s bachelorette party. Of course, once she arrives she is met by a myriad of characters ranging from menacing, ambivalent, and eccentric. The plot is cohesive and makes sense for the motivation of the protagonist, and follows through on her commitment to make amends. Less clear are the motivations of some of the other characters, but that’s because the film slowly builds its unease about what lies behind the smiles and passive-aggressive snipes.
That’s the strength of the film, is its seamless ability to integrate the conversational, natural dialogue steeped in antagonism and unclear motives. The casting helps in this regard, giving a majority female (and all-female camera crew, by the by) the chance to showcase strong acting chops with a strong script. The dialogue feels natural, and even the jokes feel organic (Jenny screaming “I just came to drink mimosas!” when confronted by the one sinister male presence hits in particular). Even the reveals as the narrative unfolds feel “right” for the characters.[/caption]
Being a microbudget, the finances appear to have been spent on lenses in favour of production design. While the film is beautiful, there are some clear shortcuts taken in order to get the scares across, which while it detracts from the chills, still gets its point across. And while some further money for the horror elements (I’m talking about the heads, specifically here) would have benefitted the horror part of things, this is still a well-acted, well-written addition to the genre fusion.
Update on the film Stag… it debuted on 6/8 at the Brooklyn Film Festival, followed by the FeFF Film Festival in Toronto where it won “Best Chills and Thrills”. It will next screen at the Portland Horror Film Festival on July 2nd.
Director: Alexandra Spieth
Starring: Alex Backus, Daniel Boyd, Mary Glen Fredrick
Production Companies: ?
Release Date: June 3-12 2022 (United States)
Run Time: 1:33 minutes