William Brent Bell
Hollywood loves to bring computer games to the big screen (Resident Evil, Tomb Raider and soon Silent Hill) so it’s no surprise that another attempt to converge into the thumb-jockey world has taken place.
Stay Alive revolves around an underground horror survival computer game of the same name. When our hero Hutch (Jon Foster – TV series Life As We Know It) comes into possession of the game when an old friend dies after playing it, he and his friends simply have to give it a go (will they never learn?). However, as the film’s tagline says: “You Die In The Game – You Die For Real”.
The source of the game’s evil is the Blood Countess, based on the true story of a 16th century Hungarian noblewoman, Elizabeth Bathory. Famed as the inspiration for modern vampirism and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, she tortured and killed 600 or so girls, supposedly to bathe in their blood for rejuvenation purposes (not someone you’d want to invite round). Now she’s back in videogame form!
As the friends realise their dire situation, the game world merges with reality. Soon they come to the conclusion that, to survive, they must destroy the countess’ ghost…
The general idea behind the film is good, much like Ring (but a videogame instead of a video cassette), and there are a few nice bits. The Blood Countess (when in the real world) does send a shiver up your spine. Similarly, the game’s zombie children are pretty freaky. But, all in all, the film is bad, with a capital ‘b’. It’s about as terrifying as Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows or the Scary Movie quadrilogy. In other words: hardly at all.
The scares are predictable; the script poor (penned by Matthew Peterman and director William Brent Bell – his second foray into feature film directing after his 1997 film Sparkle and Charm); all the characters are annoying, good looking and one-dimensional. Instead of yelling; “Don’t go in there!” you can’t wait to see the friends picked off (one by one, of course…) and, when it happens, it’s not even in original or inventive ways.
A horror film’s aim is to scare, terrify and disturb. Think Jack Nicholson going crazy in The Shining or the cellar scene in The Blair Witch Project. Both are classic horrors. Sadly, Stay Alive is not. If it comes to a cinema near you, avoid it, or else you’ll be wondering why they didn’t change the title to Stay Awake.