Ultimately an inherently silly bit of PG-13 tweener horror fluff, Stay Alive takes the basic premise of The Ring franchise and tweaks it around a bit for Anglo audiences. So instead of a deadly VHS that unwinds doom for all that view it, we have a Beta copy of a video game; if one dies while playing it, one is visited with identical mayhem in real life soon after (give or take, depending on narrative needs).
A handful of fresh young faces playing hooky from their television gigs hook up to play the eponymous first-person shooter, only to find to their dismay (and demise) that the game has been designed by none other than the infamous Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory (a contemporary of Vlad the Impaler, she liked to bathe in the blood of virgins to keep her skin taut).
So it’s “game over” one by one for our ambiguously sketched characters, in fairly predictable order (look—when was the last time you saw a non-blonde make it to the closing credits in one of these things?). Conveniently enough for the filmmakers, the premise allows for meta-scripting straight from the Department of Redundancy Department; the kids are whacked by the Countess and her sallow-faced minions who move about sketchily with dank hair obscuring their countenances (”Ring” a bell?), and then replay the vignette in the real world. And since they’re dealing with pixilated beasties, the FX crew needn’t bother their silly little heads about that pesky realism thing.
But Stay Alive has a certain endearing quality about it that makes for undiscriminating time wasted at a matinee.