Many horror buffs can be self-loathing. We’ll bitch about a PG-13 snooze fest, or another remake, we’ll threaten to boycott, or tear down studio walls, and yet–we’ll still pay an obscene amount of money to watch said film because—it’s horror. And the studios know this. They know we pods will eat whatever they put on our dish because they can—and we’ll eat it up because—we’re just complacent like that. And that’s why we have “horror” films like “Stay Alive”. To be honest, I never expected a masterpiece from a film whose tagline is “You die in the game, you die for real”. That limp ad-line doesn’t particularly spark creativity to me. And when we’ve already had “The Ring”, “The Ring Two”, “The Grudge”, and “Feardotcom” I wasn’t expecting originality from a film about a game that–when played—kills you a few days later. Hell, there’s even the Asian looking mysterious female ghost hiding within the game to off the players.
But, with “Stay Alive”, I never really expected something so utterly lame-brained. Though, the film is not as awful as I’ve heard, it’s quite possibly the laziest script I’ve ever seen. Bell has the right mood and atmosphere, and the game is cool, but “Stay Alive” is a completely missed golden opportunity. The script is utterly hackneyed filled with derivative elements, and ridiculous franchising grasps. I mean is it a coincidence that there was an actual video game released simultaneous to the film’s opening? So—either they decided upon a tie-in, or people were stupid enough to watch an eighty minute commercial for a game that’s more fun than the actual movie. God, we’re suckers!
Bell’s entire horror niche is reliant on jump scares (of course), old factory devices, and characters going in to places they really shouldn’t. His film starts off exactly like “Scream” with a character that’s established with basic groundwork and then offed just to set up the film. Then we meet the basic characters whom venture in to the plot. This dry as a bone “horror” entry (Maybe they’re saving the gore for the “Ultimate Unrated DVD Edition”!) is part “Dream Warriors”, part “The Ring”, and all derivative elements thrown in for an interesting story–filled with the typical plot elements. There are your usual character archetypes including the hot Goth chick, the comp geek, the witty hipster, the love interest, and the inadvertent hero all played by pretty television actors from teen dramas—which the director looks for any excuse to show without shirts or pants. And neither of the characters is developed beyond your basic concepts upon which they’re established. And there are also your usual under-developed back stories that Bell limps along with for no reason. Here’s the hero who has a fear of fire. Why? Well—who cares? Look a ghost!
Upon which Bell gives them no likable personality traits and makes them spout terrible dialogue like “Girl has got body karate going on.”, and “Let’s butter this muffin”. How can we root for characters whom are basic morons? Perhaps it’s Bell’s allusion that gamers in general, are morons. Not that hard to believe, when you think about it. The characters that are supposed to die die. But the main characters are never offed until it’s convenient to the story. And they’re killed in some rather stupid fashions. One of them is run over by a horse and carriage, another is hung upside down and has her throat slashed (sans the blood) thanks to a monster that is ridiculously fail safe. Elizabeth Bathory, Bloody Mary—the same stock monster you always get with these low-tech horror films.
Oddly enough, Bell never gets a full grasp on his own concept, which reflects rather strongly on-screen. Seriously, Bell, answer me something: does the game kill you when you die on the game? Does the game kill you because you have it in your possession? Or does the game kill you period because you played it? Which is it? Oh no—Hutch declares—“Maybe, there aren’t any rules”. How lazy. Furthermore, how can the demon control forces beyond the game’s realm? What was the hinted connection between Hutch and the game all about again? How convenient the Goth chick knows the demon’s back story. How convenient the Goth chick has the right literature that tells them how to kill the demon. How odd the cops assume Hutch is in on the killings despite having zero evidence to convict him, and no reason to blame him.
And most insultingly, Bell is incredibly dependent on the dues ex machina’s, the sudden devices that appear miraculously from nowhere to save the character’s lives which he throws at us at an almost rapid fire pace, and it just speaks of how lazy the screenplay is. Especially, the ridiculous plot twist involving a laptop, and an obvious product placement in the climax. No, wait–I know what the moral of this movie was: “Horror fans and gamers are suckers”. I can just hear the studio execs now: “Prepare another slosh pile for the troth, they’ll come either way.” Prepare to eat up the next trash pile, horror fans, take the abuse, bitch.