It’s hard to think of a film that tells the story of a stag party that comes off without a hitch, and the latest film to follow in the proud tradition of putting a group of celebrating lads through hell is Bachelor Games, the feature debut from Edward McGown.
It’s Henry’s (Jack Gordon) special day, and his friends are taking him to Argentina for a mountain hike. Things get off to a pretty good start, as best man Leon (Charlie Bewley) shepherds the group through the usual rituals of boozing and bonding, but when they hit the mountain trail, things start to fall apart. Possessions go missing, the food wasn’t packed, and someone seems to be following them…
As the opening paragraph suggests, “Bachelor party from hell” isn’t the most original way to kick off your film, but to give Bachelor Games its due, it has a few tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, and possibly most importantly, the actors have chemistry, with Bewley as the confident ladies’ man, Jack Doolan as the boorish Terence and Mike Noble as the anxious Roy. Obi Abili’s Max is the wild card of the group as the late arrival; an American veteran recently returned from Afghanistan who has brought his short fuse with him.
So while the first half may suffer from over-familiarity (just off the top of our head, BBC horror miniseries Stag is still fresh in our memory), the relationship between the men is convincing, the actors are well cast and McGown makes the most of his amazing location.
And there are some twists and turns, the first of which comes roughly halfway through. It’s a genuine surprise that’s well played, and which leads to some interesting character beats, but it soon becomes apparent that the film can’t decide where to land. It’s not afraid to punish its characters but that doesn’t really sit well with the surprising heart that it possesses. It definitely gets points for not taking the obvious horror comedy route, but it’s not scary either, which makes for a dispiriting amount of waiting around for something to happen.
There’s a good deal of promise here but Bachelor Games struggles from not being able to decide what it wants to be and, although it deserves applause for trying to do something different with a tired premise, it doesn’t really stick the landing.