Probably one of the most underrated comedies of recent years, Stag, a fascinatingly ambitious comedy/horror/mystery deserved more recognition than it first received when it premiered back in 2016. Now that it’s that spookiest time of the year, I thought that it would be a good time to take another look at it…
Stag, is, as the name suggests, a three-part thriller, about a group of eight friends on a stag weekend in a remote part of the Scottish highlands. Jim Howick (Horrible Histories, Ghosts, Peep Show) stars as Ian, who is a complete outsider to the rest of the stag party. He’s only tagged along because his sister asked him to ‘look after’ her fiancé, ‘Johnners’.
Unassuming Ian hates these ‘posh boys’ who subject him to ridicule, due to what they consider to be his quite lacklustre teaching job, along with his general lack of machismo. Jim Howick really shines as Ian, being a comedic actor that usually plays supporting roles, it’s really refreshing to see him take the lead.
Ian’s soon to be brother-in-law, Johnners (Stephen Campbell Moore) and his rich friends, quickly offend the gamekeeper, who was taking them on this hunting trip weekend, forcing the group to set up camp by themselves. Shortly after this, one of the gang is murdered. As time goes on, the group start to get picked off one by one. Ian slowly works out that there seems to be a secret connecting them all, but can he find out the truth before they are all killed?
It’s very much the ‘And Then There Were None’ of the comedy world. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this would be more comedic than suspenseful, but surprisingly enough, it’s often the other way round. There are moments in Stag that garner much more drama and genuine thrills than some ‘naff’ low budget horror thrillers, that always seem to be two a penny at this time of the year.
Other cast members include Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentleman, Inside No9), Tim Key (Alan Partridge’s ‘Sidekick Simon’) and James Cosmo as the gamekeeper. My favourite of the group is Cosmo, played by Rufus Jones (not James Cosmo, I know, it’s confusing). He’s a superb character, you might end up rooting for him just as much as Ian.
It’s a series that’s full of people you’ll recognise when you see them, such as cameos from Sharon Rooney (Zapped) and Tom Davis (Murder in Successville). The show was written by Jim Field Smith (who previously directed The Wrong Mans) and co-writer George Kay (who previously wrote My Mad Fat Diary). It strikes a similar tone to The Wrong Mans, but never quite got the same recognition, which is a shame because, in a lot of ways, I think Stag is even better.
There was discussion at the time about the pay-off. It’s always hard for a thriller to satisfy its audience, when you find out what’s really going on, there’s always a feeling of disappointment. I won’t spoil it here, but I did really enjoy the ending.
I felt that there was a bleaker way to end the show that might have been better, but after all, it was a comedy/horror and they often end on a lighter note. For example, Shaun of The Dead, arguably the most famous and successful horror/comedy ended on a slightly daft comedic beat. It’s really a testament to the excellent acting from the cast that the drama element in Stag really won over.
So there you have it. Looking for something a bit different to watch this Halloween? I really can’t recommend Stag enough. Available on DVD and Netflix:
Written by Rhianna Evans