Welcome to A-Z Movie Reviews. Every Sunday, for the next several months, I will be posting a review of a film in my home movie collection. How it works is, I will be reviewing movies in alphabetical order until I get to the letter Z (Yes, I do have a film that ends in Z). Now I realize there are many ways to alphabetize a film collection, but this is mine so don’t judge me. This is simply for fun.
Over the years video game play has gotten more immersive. You can now slap some headgear on and feel like you’re actually right in the scenario you’re playing in. For this installment of A-Z Movie Reviews, I’m talking about the film Stay Alive which takes us into the realm of video game play that becomes a little too real.
What it’s about:
For a group of teens, the answer to the mysterious death of their old friend lies within the world of an online video game based on the true story of an ancient noblewoman known as the Blood Countess.
Okay, first off let me just say that the blurb up above is umm… inaccurate. It says “For a group of teens” but I assure you these are not teenagers in this film. Every one of the characters Stay Alive is clearly over the age of twenty-one. I think the youngest of the group may be Frank Muniz’s character Swink. Stay Alive also stars Sophia Bush (October), Jimmi Simpson (Phineus), Jon Foster (Hutch), and Samaire Armstrong (Abigail).
Although Stay Alive was released in 2006, the special effects they used to create the video game simulations is amazing. The opening scene of the film starts with one of Hutch’s best friends Loomis, who I just now realized was played by Milo Ventimiglia, playing the online game which is of course titled “Stay Alive.”
The effects are so creepy but also extremely cool and it still scares me. I can only imagine what it would have looked like if they made Stay Alive now. As Loomis plays the game, we are inside it with him so you feel just as creeped out as he does. His character ends up dying in the video game and later on, he dies for real in the exact manner he did in the game.
When Hutch goes to Loomis’s funeral, he is given a bag containing his possessions including a copy of Stay Alive. Stay Alive is an underground video game that has yet to be released. Hutch and Loomis are heavy gamers so he decides to get all of his friends together and play the game in a sort of tribute to Loomis.
The game is set in a derelict mansion on the Gerouge Plantation. Now, get this, in order for game play to start everyone has to recite “The Prayer of Elizabeth,” a request for “all who resist” to perish so that their blood can keep the Countess Elizabeth Bathory young. While everyone recites the words together, they begin to disappear on the screen. I don’t know about you all but, if I have to recite some weird creepy prayer to start a video game, count me out.
The group is intrigued by every aspect of the game and as they begin to play, it’s fun until one of Hutch’s coworkers Miller (Adam Goldberg), who was also playing with them, dies. When Miller played the game, his character died after the Countess stabbed him in the throat.
As he is preparing to head home from work, her spirit appears and she kills him in the same way as his avatar. Hutch starts to suspect that the game has something to do with it. Everyone thinks he’s not making sense until October’s brother Phineus is run over by the Countess’s horse drawn carriage.
The difference with Phineus is that he actually stopped playing the game before his character could die. The Countess has started cheating and is somehow playing the game on her own despite nobody touching it.
The remaining friends start doing research to figure out how to end the game and stop the Countess before she can kill more of them. October who has been doing research on Elizabeth, tells the group in order to stop the Countess, they have to find her real body and three nails need to be driven into it to trap her evil soul.
The premise of Stay Alive is a really good one however, there are some issues with the film. It’s a bit all over the place and there are still a lot of unanswered questions in the end. The biggest being who made the video game Stay Alive.
Hutch, and the rest of his friends who are alive, spend the remainder of the film trying to stop the Countess but they also want to figure out who created the game in the first place. We never find out. Then there is the storyline of Hutch and his past and being afraid of fire because of almost being killed in one. I don’t really think it moved the plot along and it was weird placement.
Horror films typically don’t have happy endings and Stay Alive follows that formula. Sure we have some remaining survivors and they did stop the Countess but, in the end they don’t stop the video game from being mass marketed.
Basically we end right where we started, only this time the whole world is now playing and it’s just what the Countess needs to be resurrected yet again. Makes everything Hutch and his friends did to stop the Countess seem like a complete waste of time.
Despite all these issues I had and still have with Stay Alive, it’s a scary movie that will keep you entertained and it’s got just the right amount of jump scares in it too. If you like scary movies and gaming, give it a watch.