'Stay Alive' Puts Horror Into Video Games
Brian Orndorf (briano)
When a close friend dies horribly in his home (Milo Ventimiglia), a group of online gamers (including Jon Foster, Sophia Bush, Adam Goldberg, and Frankie Muniz) get their hands on the prototype video game he was playing, entitled "Stay Alive." Enthusiastically playing the gothic survival game at first, it soon becomes apparent that the participants are being killed off one by one in the same fashion they were killed in the game, leaving the survivors to try and find a way to keep themselves alive long enough to find the source of the evil.Ah yes, another week, another miserable horror film a studio is trying to keep a secret by not screening for the press. Is anybody paying close attention to this growing practice? You should be.
©2006 Hollywood PicturesIf "Stay Alive" wasn't enough of a fantasy, the production is actually asking the viewer to accept a film about video games where all the main characters are thin, employed, and a couple of them downright good looking. But then "Stay Alive" is so predictably dreadful and so idiotically directed, that little detail should be the least of my criticisms.Directed by William Brent Bell, "Alive" does have some gumption to try and create a plotline involving gamers. I find it insane to try to please a sour, nitpicking subculture like that one. With video games a notoriously iffy subject matter for cinema, "Alive" looks to dazzle with next-gen graphics and a screenplay crammed with gamer idiosyncrasies (Red Bull product placement, sweatiness), but the gimmick is shoved into the most uninspired horror machinations that could possibly be depicted on the silver screen. "Alive" is a straightforward slasher film, though obviously defanged from an R to a PG-13 rating so the audience that doesn't read film reviews will be able to see it opening weekend without mom and dad becoming upset. The characters are set up like bowling pins, and they're knocked down just as easily. Sprinkle in a mild pass at a traumatic backstory for the lead role, a romance that comes out of nowhere between two characters who barely know each other, some truly heinous acting from anyone who merely steps into the frame, and "Alive" consistently proves itself to be the most idiotic film this year that wasn't directed by Uwe Boll. All the audience can do is laugh at what's being attempted onscreen, including the half-realized idea that this video game world is somehow connected to the real world. Bell also co-wrote the script, but instead of fleshing out the story to create a more intriguing backdrop to this already dated nonsense, he's too busy thinking up screenwriting 101 names for the characters, including Phineus, Loomis, Swink, Hutch, and October. I wish that much imagination was given to the rest of the film, which runs through the deadbeat horror traditions (including boo scares and amateur editing) with all the excitement of a tax audit.F