Stay Alive (2006)

Stay Alive (2006)

It’s the game of life and death…

After the death of one of their friends, a group of teenagers find themselves in possession of a video game called Stay Alive – based on a true story of a 17th century noblewoman known as the Blood Countess. After playing the game themselves, the friends realize that once they die in the game, they die for real. As their numbers begin dropping and as they begin dying in the ways they died in the game, the remaining friends realise that they must defeat the Blood Countess both in the game and outside of it.

 

Taking a mildly different spin on the Ring-style plot, Stay Alive had a slight amount of potential given the relevance and sheer importance of the video game industry nowadays. No longer is it a video that kills you after you’ve watched it, it’s a game that kills you after you’ve played it. Hardly the most nerve-shredding idea to come out of Hollywood but when you think of some of the kick ass horror-related games that have been made in the last decade like Dead Space (of which some are infinitely scarier than any teen-orientated horror), then you would have thought that this wouldn’t be too hard to pull off. Well I was wrong and Stay Alive plays more like the old E.T. on the Atari than Silent Hill or Resident Evil ever did on the PS2.

As I’ve already hinted, the premise itself is pretty good. But once you see the rubbish ‘game’ that they’re playing, you’ll wonder what the hell ever possessed them to play it in the first place. The graphics are awful, the controls look sluggish and there’s not a lot to do except repeat the same bits over and over again (the characters only ever play the same one or two bits of the game). It doesn’t look scary in the slightest but credit due because at least they bothered to make a game to play especially for the film and show us footage from it. They could easily have passed off another real game as Stay Alive.

Furthering the problems from the get go are the central characters that are a bunch of whiny teenagers best labelled as well as they could be: token jerk, goth chick, nerdy computer expert, etc. They’re all pretty terrible, hired obviously for their looks over their talent and spouting off cheesy, supposedly ‘hip’ lines every second. The relationships between them are also the genre standards – some closer than others, one or two who constantly nag each other (but love each other really) and ones with hidden secrets. It’s all designed to keep the drama going between them but you won’t care in the slightest.

Despite the problems above, the film does manage to get off on the right foot with a couple of kills and a rather unsettling atmosphere (using the controller vibration as a sound effect to indicate the presence of the Blood Countess in the real world was a neat and effective little trick). However the film can’t sustain its pace and it soon falls flat on its face after the first ten to fifteen minutes. The plot then meanders from place to place, content with throwing us morsels of back story every now and then but never really taking the time to slow down and explain things properly. Things like who the hell made the game in the first place?

The whole middle section of the film where the characters unravel the mystery bit-by-bit and begin researching the Blood Countess is just boring. Stay Alive? You’ll have a job to stay awake at this point. Even the finale, where things pick up, is a mess of silly ideas and genre conventions about who is going to live and die. There is a distinct lack of the red stuff or any hint of real brutality. Given how gory some of the video games today are and how brutal the latest wave of horror films have been, I’d have expected a little more.

 

If killer video games are your thing then why not go and buy one of the many survival horror games out there like Resident Evil, Silent Hill or Dead Space. They’re more likely to scare the pants out of you than this crap. Stay Alive had a reasonable idea to run with but wasted it with teenagers, corny dialogue and a lack of scares. This should have read Game Over a long time ago.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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