For our scary movie fests, Mek and I always pick too many horror films, and let the friends vote on which ones they want to watch and which ones get chucked. Stay Alive was the movie that got chucked almost instantaneously. Mek and I decided to watch it later, hoping that it would be a gloriously great mock movie. After all, sometimes my friends, as much as I love them, are wrong. If I recall correctly, they were vastly dismissive about watching Jason X, and that movie was the epitome of awesome. Jason X is even more gloriously cheesy and self-aware than Piranha 3D.
When it came to Stay Alive, however? Yeah, the friends were right.
A bunch of friends stumble onto an awesome new video game called, wouldn’t you know it, Stay Alive. But when they get killed off in the game, they also get killed off in real life . Dun dun dun!
1. Milo Ventimiglia is in this movie, and he’s wearing glasses that look an awful lot like glasses that my dad might have worn in the 70’s. The beard is surprisingly not so bad on him, but the glasses, the glasses have to go.
2. Now that important things like fashion are out of the way, you might wonder about less significant details, like how is the rest of the movie? Well, it’s kind of slow. It’s not mind-numbingly boring, but it’s a little on the dull side with long gaps between killing off exceptionally flat characters. It’s not even that the characters are so unlikable. They’re just flat. I care more about trigonometry than I care about these people, and all I know about trigonometry is that it’s some level of math that was far above and beyond the Algebra II that I had to take to graduate high school.
3. Of the gamers, the only one that’s even remotely interesting is Phineus, and that’s mostly because he’s played with a lot of energy by Jimmi Simpson. (I love Jimmi Simpson for his guest role on Psych as Mary, the Mr. Yang expert, and he’s the main reason I’m going to give Breakout Kings a chance.) Phineus is the insensitive asshole of the group, so as we’re watching, Mek and I don’t exactly have high hopes for his survival. This is unfortunate because almost every other actor seems to be sleepwalking through their lines. The whole movie’s really kind of lethargic.
4. On the upside, there is a pretty funny DVD feature: you can create your own avatar, dress him in whatever you want, and then see what happens when you hit the button ‘Activate.’ I was amused, anyway.
5. Also amusing, although I’m pretty sure it was unintentional: Adam Goldberg for, whatever reason, tries out a Southern accent. I am, by no means, a Southern accent expert, but I think he actually gives Jonny Lee Miller from Mindhunters a run for his money for worst twang ever, and boy, is that saying something.
6. The hero is so intensely vanilla that I’m bored just by looking at him, but it’s his love interest, Abigail, who I really despise.
I suppose I could forgive Abigail (Samaire Armstrong) for her horrible blonde hair—although I really don’t understand why she’d want to detract from her gorgeous skin with ugly barbie doll hair, but okay, whatever, it’s her life. What I can’t quite forgive is her oh-so-quirky habit of openly taking photographs of grieving people at funerals. I mean, in a well-written, character oriented script, I’m sure you could make that concept work somehow, but here it’s more like Writer Joe and Writer Susan were at it again:
Writer Joe: Okay, so our hero, Hutch, he needs a love interest.
Writer Susan: Obviously, Writer Joe. We can’t make movies without love interests. If people didn’t spend every second of their life in some kind of romantic conflict, what would they do with themselves?
Writer Joe: Exactly, Writer Susan. So we need to create a love interest. Let’s call her Abigail.
Writer Susan: Oh, I sure do like that name, Writer Joe. But how will Hutch meet Abigail?
Writer Joe: I don’t know, Writer Susan. Hutch does have to go to a funeral for his dead childhood friend. Abigail could meet him there.
Writer Susan: Oh, was Abigail friends with the dead guy, too?
Writer Joe: Maybe, but her relationship to the dead man is hardly important. What’s REALLY important is that she is DIFFERENT from all those other girls. You know, she’s not superficial or anything. She’s got to be SPECIAL. REAL. DEEP.
Writer Susan: Hey, what if Abigail takes a picture of Hutch while he’s mourning this friend that he spent most of his life with? And he sees her and is intrigued by her strange yet alluring tastelessness?
Writer Joe: Gosh, Writer Susan. That’s a STUNNING idea. I mean, if some random stranger was taking pictures of me while I was grieving for someone that I love, *I* might be a little upset about my unendurable pain being turned into someone else’s shitty art project. But for Hutch, it will be love at first sight! Epic win, Writer Susan! Epic win!!!
Ugh. Just ugh.
7. Also, the “steal a glance at the girl while she’s on the toilet” scene? Yeah. That’s hot.
8. Stay Alive could be kind of a neat idea—especially with video game graphics as advanced they are today—but unlike, say, the Resident Evil games, the movie never actually manages to be particularly creepy. It also doesn’t help that the film’s internal logic and backstory struggle mightily as the movie progresses. I mean, I’m not usually one to criticize historical accuracy—I enjoyed 300, for God’s sake—but this is really kind of bad. And pretty much anyone who’s ever seen a horror film about witches knows that The Witch’s Hammer is called Malleus Maleficarum. Malleus Demonium? Really? Really?
Honestly, the whole thing’s kind of ridiculous, but ridiculous in a boring way, which is never the goal for Mock Night.
9. The cops in this story? They are so utterly unessential to the plot that I’m not even sure why they made it into the final cut. It’s like someone forgot about them an hour into the film.
10. Finally, Frankie Muniz is in Stay Alive. It’s easy to groan or make an Agent Cody Banks joke here, but honestly, as the film continues, he’s one of the only bearable people left to watch.
Moral: If your friend died violently after playing a strange game that makes you speak an oath before you get to play it yourself . . . why don’t you just go play Street Fighter instead, okay?