A low rent “Elm Street” that replaces the idea of dreams with video games, “Stay Alive” is a very generic example of the all too profitable and yet disgustingly bland PG-13 supernatural slasher genre that has risen to far too much prominence and profitability in recent years. Like all movies of the type, this follows the general Agatha Christie-inspired mould of a group of teenagers being killed off gruesomely one-by-one until the inevitable face-off with the baddie.
In this film the villain at least has more thought put into her than any of the hero characters. Based on an old Hungarian legend (shifted to Louisiana for filming purposes), the Countess Elizabeth Bathory was essentially a 16th-century serial child killer who used their blood to stay young and was eventually entombed alive in her own home. In the film though she’s reduced to the occasional flash and resembles more like the albino scary kids from “The Grudge” all grown up and dressed in old-fashioned Southern robes.
As for the teens, its the usual fodder lead by two hotties and a bunch of standard ‘kicks on the side – the goth chick, the stoner, the yuppie, and the future Surreal Life candidate (in this case Frankie Muniz). There’s the usual ‘the cops don’t believe me’ subplot (kept graciously minimal) and the one or two lines of “you don’t believe this supernatural nonsense do you” from a character as almost a disclaimer for the general audience. Its all so predictable, right down to who’ll survive in the end that there is no suspense.
That leaves two things going for it – the deaths and the video game concept. The former has been utterly neutered by the PG-13 rating, which leaves only one or two gruesome ghostly faces in mirrors as the film’s most objectionable piece of material. The video game scenes actually are a lot more engaging than the film itself, but like all games – they’re much more fun playing than actually observing.
Is there anything going for it? For an obviously low-budget film, the production design is not too shabby and the Louisiana setting gives it a little bit of flavour. But the only distinct aspect to this story is its vidgame concept which it essentially wastes – along with our time. Pretty much as atrocious as the recent “When a Stranger Calls” remake (if not more so), this is one film where its probably better to wait for the game.