Roll over and die
Hey kids! This week’s lesson in maximum suckage comes to us from the good folks at Buena Vista. Looks like Disney isn’t ready to jump on the old R-rated horror movie bandwagon just yet. Instead, they’ve trucked out this PG-13 waste of time called Stay Alive in a sad attempt to cash in on the game craze and get some of those horror-fan dollars while they’re at it.
First off, it’s pretty obvious watching this thing that it was originally intended to be R-rated, and somebody chickened out. Among other bad editing decisions, violent scenes are abruptly cut off, and one dude’s F-bomb is actually silenced as he mouths the word (just like the Rolling Stones during the Super Bowl). Secondly, none of this really matters because the movie is a pile of junk regardless of the rating.
A sequence before the credits begin is fairly promising as Loomis, a chronic gamer, sits at his computer playing a creepy game in which bloody ghosts chase after him. He dies by hanging in the game, and, shortly thereafter, he dies by hanging in real life. Then the credits start, and so does the part of the movie that stinks to high heaven, which is just about every remaining second.
Before Loomis kicks the bucket, he calls his buddy Hutch (Jon Foster, good in The Door in the Floor … not good here), who blows him off and must deal with the guilt at his bud’s funeral. A family member passes Loomis’ bag of games on to Hutch ("He would want you to have them.") Then Hutch discovers the disc for Stay Alive, the game Loomis was playing on the night of his death.
As most devout gamers would do after their friend’s funeral, Hutch takes part in a secret gaming party, where the illegal game is downloaded and multiple people take a crack at it. The once-promising actor Adam Goldberg, who uses a terrible Southern accent here, gets killed in the game; then he dies an identical death in the real world. (I’m not giving up much by saying that because he also died in the promotional teaser.) Hutch begins to suspect that something is afoul—a frustrating realization that Foster conveys with horribly bad acting.
A few other folks die deaths similar to the ones suffered in the game, and Hutch comes to the decision that, yes, the game definitely has something to do with friends dying untimely and highly stylized deaths. He’s a suspect because he’s connected with everybody who’s dying and also because the detectives working the case are hackneyed clichés.
Hutch joins forces with ultra-gamer Malcolm in the Middle (Frankie Muniz—time to have beers with Gary Coleman and Corey Feldman), cool Goth girl October (Sophia Bush) and some homeless girl he picked up at the Loomis funeral (Samaire Armstrong—at least I think that was her under all that pancake makeup). Together, the three combat the ghostly force within the game, stopping intermittently for make-out sessions and pie (just kidding about the pie).
The film tries to go deep on occasion, with unintentionally hilarious results. Hutch has a problem with fire, and he gets to battle that particular demon successfully in the film’s finale. This left me relieved, for I was really worried about the guy. His Frankenstein complex ("Fire….errr!") must’ve been making it really hard for him to fire up his bong during intense sessions of Resident Evil 4.
Making the movie all the more entertaining at the screening I attended was a herd of “screamy girls” who let out a yelp every time a ghost appeared or Adam Goldberg smiled (he has really big teeth). Even better, a baseball-cap-wearing man-child did a “talk at the screen” commentary for the whole film, even during the credits. As it turns out, the shit he was babbling contained more intellect than anything in the film.