by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Jon Foster as HUTCH O’NEILL
Samaire Armstrong as ABIGAIL
Frankie Muniz as SWINK SYLVANIA
Jimmi Simpson as PHINEAS BANTUM
Milo Ventimiglia as LOOMIS CROWLEY
James Haven as JONATHAN MALKUS
Sophia Bush as OCTOBER BANTUM
Adam Goldberg as MILLER BANKS
Studio: Hollywood Pictures
Directed by: William Brent Bell
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Usually when a film isn’t screened for critics in its initial theatrical release, there’s a good reason for it. However, lately studios have been gunshy about certain genres, and horror movies in general are given a pass for the critics. That’s a shame if you’re like me – a critic who enjoys a good horror film.
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“Stay Alive” was one of those films that never got shown to critics before its release. The Hollywood marketing reason for this is that the absence of bad reviews won’t deter the public from seeing the film. I don’t think this actually works because people aren’t stupid. They’ve figured out that if a movie has no reviews, that means the studio was scared to show it to the so-called experts like me.
Also, while some movies like “Underworld: Evolution” was not shown in advance to critics and did well, the cinematic landscape is riddle with corpses of movies that weren’t shown to the critics and still bombed, like the horror films “Pulse” and “Stay Alive” for that matter. Ultimately, horror fans will see a movie or not see a movie based on whether they want to see it, not because Lou Lumenick of the New York Times says it’s garbage.
Ultimately, I wish the studio would have screened “Stay Alive” because I actually thought it wasn’t a bad flick. Sure, it was a basic teenage horror flick with a high body count and a cast of eye candy for both the sexes. Still, I saw it as a unique twist on the standard slasher plot. Instead of a deranged psycho in a hockey mask, the killer is a video game.
The movie follows a group of gamers (who end up being much hotter than any real gamer I know in this realm) as they mourn their friend who apparently committed suicide after killing his roommate and girlfriend. They discover a beta-testing version of a new game in his stash. Once they start playing it, they realize that their friend died in exactly the same way that a character did in the game.
Soon, the friends discover that the game ultimately kills everyone who plays it (not exactly the best form of market retention for the video game company). They band together in an effort to defeat the game and stop the murderous ghost trapped inside.
Yeah, the plot sounds like utter nonsense, but it’s fun. The DVD of the film contains the director’s unrated version. And unlike some unrated DVDs, this one actually comes with footage that would have garnered an R-rating (or an NC-17 rating possibly) instead of the coveted theatrical PG-13 rating. To boost this concept, the DVD case proudly advertises a checklist on the back cover with the items: violence, gore, sex/nudity, profanity and drug use. You can’t go wrong with that checklist.
The DVD comes with a visual effects reel and an audio commentary by the filmmakers. For fans of fancy video styling on a DVD, there’s also alternate interactive bonus menus that can be chosen based on characters in the game. It’s a little thin on special features – especially for a film based so much on technological toys – but it’s still worth a look.
“Stay Alive” delivers in all the departments needed for a teenage horror film. The plot is a little weak, and the characters aren’t perfect, but the movie knows its audience and it approaches the elements unapologetically.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.