Horror films have had varied and truly strange premises in the past that have worked out strangely well. A simple haunting that proves to be more dangerous as a couple further investigates it with home cameras? Paranormal Activity looked like another found-footage crap fest when trailers first came out and now it’s a very successfully, and well made, franchise. Same for The Blair Witch Project. Haunted video tape where a girl pops out of your TV to kill you? The Ring is one the most respected and recgonized films out there, with even its American remake beign good. I could go on and on, but my point is that even a seemingly bad premise can turn out to be well worth a watch.
So how then does the premise of a haunted videogame that kills you if you die in-game hold up under close inspection? Let’s take a look at 2006’s Stay Alive.
The film, as previously mentioned, is about a haunted video game that kills anyone who dies within the game, they die the same way in real life. After finding a mysterious game in the belongings of his murdered friend, Hutch gathers all his loved ones, and one hot stranger he met at said-friend’s funeral, to play the game. The game, Stay Alive, is a game about Elizabeth Bathory, a real life historical figure who was said to bathe in the blood of virgins in order to remain immortal. In the game, you enter her plantation (weird for a Hungarian noble, but whatever movie) and fight off monsters. But one by one, as the friends play on and die, they find themselves victims of terrible, gruesome accidents.
I am going to just start off by saying that I am a huge fan of this movie for basically no rational reason. I think it’s a whole lot of fun, and really is not the worse film I have ever seen in the horror genre. There are some genuine scary moments, and parts that show genuine talent and competence. But there are tons of weird plot holes, and inaccuracies. After all, a good portion of the fear is gone because we know exactly who the monster is, and how they kill people from the first few minutes – nothing that happens is really a surprise. Worse still, some parts are straight up bullshit. For example, the way to make the evil Elizabeth Bathory disappear from site is by throwing roses at her. Because…roses looks pretty?
What really sells this movie amounts to two things: The characters, and the cinematography. Let’s tackle that first aspect. Even though each these people are basically stereotypes – the gamer geek, the wilting flower, the burn out – they are make incredibly likable. The burn-out is sarcastic, funny, worries about his sister and friend, and when he bites it (and yeah, you knew he was), you genuinely feel bad for him. The only person who we never really care about is the airy love interest, whose blander than Hell, but she’s meant to be an audience stand-in. The acting ranges from good to decent – no outstanding performances persay, but no one is bad enough to stand out either. Hell Frankie Munez even gets a hilarious line every now and again. The screenwriting is pretty realistic without tons of exposition dumps, but can be somewhat dull when the movie hits a small lull.
The film has an amazing aesthetic that really helps it feel like a horro movie. The color scheme, lighting effects, and layout of the sots really give you a gloomy and dark feeling overall, that gets hyped up with every gory, graphic death. The videogame within the film looks amazing – I would love to play this game, sans evil curse. Even the finale, which is a little lackluster, looks amazing. No matter what, this film is just great to look at, and it makes the whole deadly ride a lot more fun.
Ultimately, Stay Alive is a so-so film that really shines in some places more than others. Even though this movie is placed in the “bad” category, I can’t help but love it. Genuine love and work went into this film and it’s very plain to see. And yes, I know a lot of people don’t like this movie and yes, it has plot holes you can land a plane through, but there’s just a charm to this movie, which makes it worth the watch. If you’re in the mood to laugh, scream, and point out all the inconsistencies, then this is the movie you need to see this Halloween.
– Fantastic cinematography and special effects
– Great characters
– Pretty good screenwriting
– Filled to the brim with plot holes
– Strange premise that doesn’t fully work
– Some poor acting