Horror is a wide and diverse genre yet there remains a perception that it is very much a genre whose primary followers are men, leading to a subgenre particularly evident in British horror cinema, the “lad horror” of Lesbian Vampire Killers, Doghouse and Cockneys vs Zombies, across them featuring a roster designed to appeal to that demographic, James Corden, Danny Dyer, Matthew Horne, Stephen Graham.
And what could be more laddish than a stag weekend abroad as groom-to-be Henry (The Great Train Robbery’s Jack Gordon) heads to Argentina with best man Leon (Breaking Dawn’s Charlie Bewley), boisterous liability-in-waiting Terence (Cockneys vs Zombies’ Jack Doolan) and somewhat timid hanger-on Roy (Kill Command’s Mike Noble), meeting up with soldier-on-leave with a hair-trigger temper Max (Injustice’s Obi Abili) at their destination.
They’re rowdy, they’re drunk, they’re irresponsible, typical lads abroad about to bid one of their number farewell to the confines of marriage, and obeying the rules of no calls, no texting, no Facebook, they all hand their phones in before setting out in their flatbed christened the Stagship Enterprise: whatever happens in the mountains stays in the mountains, but what they have brought with them are secrets and resentments and lies and the baggage of years of accumulated friendship.
What they find is a stunningly desolate land untouched by modernity where “a casual stroll” with their guide Carlos (actually a taxi driver from Buenos Aires with no local knowledge) is in fact a hard hike deep into the mountains where they find a shrine to the Hunter, echoing a story told to them by a drunk in the bar the previous night of a man who loved the most beautiful woman in the land but who was murdered by her father, who now roams the land seeking those who have darkness in their hearts…
The horror comedy is a difficult genre to navigate, and Bachelor Games gets lost in the foothills with astonishing rapidity. The leads are largely interchangeable and while not as objectionable company as they might have been, nor are they stimulating company, their ambitions and attitudes lowbrow and inevitably selfish; while all the actors are certainly adequate in their roles, with none given characters anyone would actually want to spend a weekend abroad with.
Filmed around Cafayate in northern Argentina, the locations and skies are stunning, plains and mountains which have seen the sun turn a thousand times and remained untouched by man, and it is easy to believe that such places are haunted by the past, but the worst which can happen to a man is what he might do to his friends in anger, and fearful, isolated and abandoned by their guide the party unravels with little provocation.
There are moments of quite confession among the group where the film seems for a moment to genuinely have found its heart, and while mercifully it is not found footage it follows the tropes of unprovoked arguments and petty squabbles all too readily when setting a more ambitious course for individuality would have been more involving and rewarding.
Directed by Edward McGowan from a script by Sam Michell, with the rug-pull of the plot too early and too clumsy, the film then spends the second half trying to find its feet again by running through the same tropes of the first half, supposedly playing for keeps this time, but peppered with telegraphed jump scares it is difficult to care who lives or dies.
Bachelor Games is released on video on demand on Friday 8th July