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  Publicity Stills of "Stay Alive"
(Courtesy from UIP)

Genre: Horror
Director: William Brent Bell
Starring: Samaire Armstrong, Sophia Bush, Adam Goldberg
RunTime: 1 hr 26 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: PG (Horror and Some Sexual References)

Opening Day: 28 September 2006

Synopsis :

This pop culture-laden fright-fest takes the legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary and relocates it in the inherently creepy locale of New Orleans. The usual cast of motley and none-too-bright teenagers is assembled and attached to quirky names--smartass Phineas (Jimmi Simpson) and his Goth-girl sister, October (Sophia Bush), hunky protagonist Hutch (Jon Foster), and tech-head Swink (Frankie Muniz), to name a few--and they all have one thing in common: the love of gaming. When Hutch’s best friend Loomis (Milo Ventimiglia) is a victim in a violent massacre, Hutch ends up with the game he was playing just before he died. Called "Stay Alive," the game is technically illegal and Hutch and his friends can’t resist booting it up. The game resurrects the Countess, who centuries ago was walled up in her tower when her crimes were discovered (she is said to have brutally murdered 650 servant girls and bathed in their blood). Now, she is fulfilling her vow to return to reassume her reign of terror. This time, however, her victims are gamers who will die in the same way in life as they do in the game.

Movie Review:

Riding the bandwagon of the burgeoning subculture of gamers and the advent of next-gen games is the survival horror movie, Stay Alive. Cutting to the chase, it’s a veritable The Ring (the remake) rip-off. The bare bones of its premise is a videogame that when played, kills its players in real-life as it does in the game. It’s aggravatingly similar. Right down to its typically over-employed ghoul: the grayish-toned longhaired girl who crawls on all fours with the oft-used cut-motion editing (who’s her agent anyway?).

It’s as generic and harmless as it can possibly get, especially when it looks like our local media authorities are passing this through with a relatively unrestrictive rating (it was released domestically in the US with a PG-13) which should have already heralded the dreck that is to come. Ultimately Stay Alive is just like cinematic fast food, you know its not good for you but it’s just a quick fix to get you through the paltry pickings in the cinemas.

Here’s a brief list of rules that these modern teen-slasher flicks usually abide by:

1. Make sure to have an over-emphasised set-up that doesn’t seem worth the effort when it fails to pay off at the end in a meaningful way.

2. Start a romance between the female and male lead at the worst possible time in the movie.

3. Cast actors from television shows (The OC, One Tree Hill, Malcolm in the Middle, Life As We Know It), aimed at bringing in some of their fanfare. Then promptly obliterate any sense of individuality and dress them up indistinguishably at the expense of character development.

4. Always bring together a group of teenagers to take it upon themselves to investigate the death of a mutual friend.

5. Do the absolute worst possible thing at the most desperate situation.

6. Have the characters freak out and blame each other for their predicament before dying.

7. The Internet provides ALL the answers everytime.

8. The police should never be smarter than a group of smart-alecky slackers and as a bonus, must always be jerks.

9. Make sure to always show your lead’s chiselled body in a non-sexual way that should still end up seeming somewhat sensual.

10. When characters are killed, see to it that the survivors grief for a minute then move on swiftly to the next scene, never mentioning them again.

The major problem in this celluloid drivel is that the characters are downright unlikable, possibly to the extent of making a mockery (stereotypes) out of the vast populace of the gaming culture. With its despicable characterisation, you will find yourself rooting for half the cast to bite the dust. Aside from a singular character, played thankfully with a certain measure of moxie by Sophia Bush, these schmucks turn out to be cardboard caricatures that fall flat on their faces (literally at one point).

Another significant problem with the film’s story would be that the game cheats. What does that mean for the movie? Well, basically it indicates that its already weak concept has failed. Horribly. If the film doesn’t follow the rules it has set, it leaves its audience with yet another slasher-after-teenager movie with a barely tenable supernatural element.

Oh, and the game seems to be somewhat buggy, leaving a rather gaping loophole with the Frankie Muniz character in the game and the analogous real life situation. Unfortunately, it’s just one of the plot holes caused by its shoddy screenplay. Even the least discerning moviegoer will leave the cinemas wondering if they’d dozed off midway through. It won’t be a surprise given its boring and all too predictable death scenes, entirely devoid of tension and suspense.

With a dizzying array of product placements that are apparently synonymous with videogame players (and just how do these people actually afford a fully-furnished apartment with multiple LCD monitors and numerous Alienware merchandise), this film proves to be nothing but a shill itself – another product in the long run of also-ran scare-traps churned out by film studios. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this dour experience is the gameplay footage of the fictional game. A cross between Resident Evil 4 and Fatal Frame, I’d gladly take home that game if released, instead of insulting trash like its namesake movie.

Movie Rating:

(I would recommend an actual videogame instead)

Review by Justin Deimen

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