Written by: William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman
Directed by: William Brent Bell
Starring: Jon Foster, Samaire Armstrong, Sophia Bush and Frankie Muniz
Reviewed by: Josh G.
Itís time for a video game related horror movie. Stay Alive, however, is not actually based off of a video game; it just stars a video game - and itís a killer! The concept of having people die off in the same fashion that they were killed in the game they played is interesting and original, and in Stay Alive, it goes about its business like a Final Destination clone. I personally like those movies. They are a guilty and mindless pleasure of mine. But will this PG-13 flick measure up to its predecessors? Also accompanying the cast is Frankie Muniz (TVís Malcolm in the Middle) and Sophia Bush (The Hitcher remake). The version I viewed was the extended directorís cut, and on the back in five lines, there are the words Violence, Gore, Sex/Nudity, Profanity and Drug Use in fairly noticeable text. Does it live up to its own self-created hype? Or have we reached game over before the adventure even begins?
Loomis Crowley (Milo Ventimiglia) and his roommates Rex (Billy Slaughter) and Sarah (Nicole Oppermann) are playing a dark horror video game called Stay Alive. When they are all dead in the game, Rex and Sarah make love while Loomis contacts his friend, Hutch (Jon Foster) to tell him about the cool new game he has been playing. Itís a testing system that Loomis isnít actually supposed to own. When Loomis starts to see figures in his kitchen, he becomes creeped out and runs to his roommatesí bedroom, only to find their bodies torn apart and hung on chains. He is quickly noosed and pushed off of the upstairs balcony to hang by his neck. Just moments before, their three characters died in the game by the exact same fate.
The next day, Hutch finds out that his friend was murdered. When he attends Loomisí funeral, Loomisí sister gives Hutch her brotherís video games since her parents were going to throw them out anyway. He meets a friend of Sarahís, Abigail (Samaire Armstrong), and she gives him her number. Despite the sad feelings, friend Phineus (Jimmi Simpson) convinces Hutch to try out the Stay Alive game once they figure out that it is only currently a test. Hutch, Abigail, Phineus, his sister October (Bush), Swink (Muniz), and Hutchís boss Miller (Adam Goldberg) are the gamers. The survival video game starts out fine until Millerís character is stabbed with 14" shears. They call it a night, and end the game. The next day, when Hutch comes in to work, he learns the shocking truth that his boss was killed with what allegedly was a pair of 14" blades. Hutch figures out that there is a link between the game and the deaths, and he warns his friends, but the game doesnít seem to want to quit. And the death toll isnít getting any smaller. Grab your controller, because itís time for the game of your life to start.
Are all punks and Goths in cinema graced with wonderful names? The Return of the Living Dead's Trash; Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning's Violet; now, we have Stay Alive's October. Iíve never heard of anybody named that before, but I like it! We start off the movie with some really cheap scares, if youíd like to call them that. They are simply quick shots of video game creatures equipped with overly loud music. Thatís not scary, thatís catching you off guard. Even then, it doesnít make you jump. Itís evident from the first ten minutes that this is a lower budgeted feature. The video game sequences probably took some money to create, which is why the picture looks the way it is. Very independent, but made well.
I like how the title has a double meaning. Itís the name of the game, but itís also telling the characters in the film what they need to do. Stay Alive. Swink is a little bit annoying, as is Phineus. With Swink, we have an uber nerd whose face fidgets a lot. Perhaps thatís more of Munizís personality, but the acting in the first half is weak. Swink definitely grows on you with time. Phineus is one of the most annoying characters Iíve seen from the 2006 blowout of horror movies. Heís a stupid attempt at comic relief with a loud mouth and poor dialogue. Itís strange to see all these mixtures of personalities playing video games, especially somebody like October, Abigail, or even Hutch. It never seems to fit. I found the fact that Hutchís boss plays video games an interesting touch, made even more so loveable after you find out that he blew off a night with his wife to play Stay Alive. There are just too many video game nerds for my liking or believability. Perhaps itís hypocritical, or something of the sort to say this, seeing as how Iím a writer for a horror review site, but I HATE nerds! The people in this movie are no exception.
For a PG-13 horror, this is a pretty gruesome and bloody run through, even if itís the extended version. Thereís CGI, such as for a scene involving a horse drawn carriage, and it looks a bit blurry. Iím not a fan of CG, but I was anticipating better. Specific parts involving the video game monsters in the real world were spine tingling, but the majority of their screen times were failed projects. The writing is cheesy and formulaic, and the acting at Loomisí funeral is a mess. Editing is of poor quality in a few scenes with transitions. Thereís a subplot involving Hutchís fear of fire ever since his mother was burned alive in their home years ago. That comes into play in the last act, but it still feels like a pointless turn meant to bring more sympathy and dimensions to the main protagonist. Thatís the best thing that I can say about Stay Aliveís cast. Theyíre not just cardboard cutouts. They have different sides to them that show through the lack of talent. Iím not sure what I was expecting going into this film. Part of me wanted to enjoy it for itís new topic, while the other was dead set on this being another terrible waste of film. As it stands, Stay Alive fell somewhere in the middle of my pre-viewing estimates. Out of ten levels, it only completes five, but thatís quite alright. The brutal torture chamber of Stay Aliveís deadly secrets is enough to bounce this into your watching zone. Make it a one night show, and donít look back. Rent it!
- Extended Director's Cut -
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