Directed by William Brent Bell [Other horror films: The Devil Inside (2012), Wer (2013), The Boy (2016), Brahms: The Boy II (2020), Separation (2021)]
This movie was shit.
Now, I’ve seen this before, but it was a long, long time ago, so I recalled very little of it. I was already hesitant about rewatching it, but since I plan on rewatching and reviewing every single horror movie I’ve seen, there was no avoiding it, so I went in with tepid expectations.
The movie failed even those.
Most of the performances are shit. Whether that’s because of the script or actors/actresses themselves, I can’t say. I just know that I pretty much didn’t like any of the characters (and in particular, Samaire Armstrong’s character). As a lead, Jon Foster was terribly generic and just not interesting. Armstrong seemed like a character originally thrown in to lead to some plot twist, but instead, she’s just some random girl who lies about her background and never amounts to anything.
Frankie Muniz didn’t do anything for me. I didn’t hate his character, per se, but I definitely didn’t care about him one way or the other. Sophia Bush and Jimmi Simpson made for an interesting sister-brother pair, and I’d argue that Bush was probably one of the best characters in the movie. It was also nice to see the Bunk, or Wendell Pierce, here. Stay Alive is a far-cry from The Wire, though.
It’s not just the characters, though.
I’m a very casual gamer, so much so that calling myself a ‘gamer’ is a stretch by any definition. Give me Minecraft, Civ 3, Democracy 3, and Hearthstone, and I’ll be perfectly content. I have watched quite a lot of gameplay, though, and I have to say that the game portrayed in Stay Alive didn’t look like any horror survival games I’ve ever seen.
The angles were all janky in the third-person mode (and why was it we basically only saw first-person mode once, I wonder), and there’s no way that could be that pleasurable a multiplayer gaming experience. We saw a HUD about only three times, and just generally, that didn’t look anything like a game. Now, to be fair, this was released in 2006, so maybe survival horror has come a long way, but we about never saw an inventory, or health bar (or even sanity bar, à la Amnesia). It didn’t look anything like a game. At all.
Also, the kills throughout the film sucked. There was virtually no gore (hey, it’s a PG-13 movie, so fuck gore, too violent for the kiddies and loses us money, amirite?), and the kills overall were just so damn tepid and unmemorable, which is a shame, as this film certainly had potential.
That’s probably what bothers me most – it’s not like this film was shot in someone’s backyard. The estimated budget is around 20 million dollars, and they couldn’t come up with a script that made any modicum of sense? Seriously, I don’t get it. So the ghost of Bathory somehow made a game, that some company got distributed to Beta testers, because why? What? What is this shit?
And the game keeps going so characters can basically die without playing, right? So one of the characters (played by Muniz) says that he’ll actually play the game, giving him a better chance at surviving. Fine – that’s logical. But the other people who are alive, one of which is driving, can’t play, and Muniz can only play for himself, not for the other characters, so why the hell doesn’t the ghost take out every character who’s not playing?
This movie, the more I think about it, just annoys the shit out of me. The story makes very little sense despite the budget and potential of a video game-based horror film. You want a good video game horror movie? How to Make a Monster (2001), which is much lower quality, but it’s 1) actually fun and 2) makes a hell of a lot more sense. This movie was virtually worthless, and the ending was shit too. Oh, the CGI zombie children were great. Terrifying stuff. A+!!!