Stay Alive (2006)

Today I popped on over to Focus on the Family’s deranged parental propaganda website and found out to my horror that all my life I’ve been putting myself and those around me in serious danger by playing video games. Not only are video games expensive, not only do they make me fat, lazy, stupid and violent, but they’re also highly addictive! This helpful little gem goes on to say, “Though the American Medical Association doesn’t classify it as a formal disorder, more than 20 percent of kids in the United States are considered addicted to computer and video games.” Gah! Who’s doing all this considering, you ask? I don’t know but it’s on the internet so it must be true.

Now that I’ve seen the horrendous and comically clueless video game themed frightfest, Stay Alive, I realize FotF is missing the most obvious and dangerous threat posed by video games: the overwhelming likelihood that a character from the game will leap into the real world and ruin your shit. I will have to send them a well-worded email about this.

The story: Things start out spooky enough: college student Loomis is playing a survival horror computer game called Stay Alive, which he describes to a friend over the phone as “the sickest shit since Fatal Frame.” Fair enough.

"So going back to my last save...pretty much out of the question?"

After dying in the game, the kid trots around his parents’ darkened house long enough for the audience to get several startling glimpses of something lurking behind him. A noise like a rumbling controller mixed with a subwoofer test tone starts buzzing and we know shit is about to go down. He tries to flee just as a supernatural shackle clamps around his neck and hangs him to death.

We then meet the rest of the gang, all of whom have names equally as reasonable as Loomis: Hutch, Phineas, October, Swink, and Abigail. I suppose I should be grateful that the gamer protagonists aren’t all stereotypes (although Phin is a crass, slovenly stoner and Swink a caffeine-addled tech nerd) but I was still a little put off by Hutch’s rippling abs and the ladies’ bodacious curves. Alas even geeks have to be unreasonably attractive when they’re main characters in horror movies. As Phineas says, “Girl has got body karate…goin’ on.” Indeed.


The group discovers among their dead friend’s possessions what they assume to be a beta test copy of an unreleased game. They fire up a little LAN party (ah, takes me back) and try the sucker out. They soon realize that dying in-game will result in death in the real world under identical circumstances. Shockingly, the cops do not believe them. So they’re on their own to unravel the mystery of the game’s nineteenth century villianess, Elizabeth Bathory, a/k/a The Blood Countess, before it’s too late.

Never lead with "This is gonna sound nuts, but..."

Biggest letdown: Let’s be real here: this movie blows. It looks like half of it was shot on film and the rest on cheap video. Though the actors give it their all, the characters maddeningly seem to be making up the rules of their predicament as they go. But what really kills me is that apparently this Elizabeth Bathory was a real historical sadist who did in fact torture and murder a bunch of little girls, though not in America. It’s such a cool story, I wish Stay Alive was a real game so someone could base a better movie on it.

Why you should watch: Much to my surprise, I was not totally appalled by the video game sequences. The quality of the renders and the organic irregularity of the avatars’ motions makes it clear these are cinematic shots the likes of which are even now beyond the reach of actual gameplay animations. Still, the illusion is mostly successful for anyone but the most knowledgeable. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the whole movie is that the group not only plays this survival horror game, but does so cooperatively. The co-op feature wouldn’t actually become a part of the survival horror experience until the excellent Left 4 Dead a full two years later, and even that great game is basically only a shooter with horror trappings. Actual cooperative horror survival games focusing on scary exploration are still pretty rare and in 2006 they were unheard of. So kudos to the minds behind this fictitious game for unintentionally predicting a pretty cool future. I’d certainly play Stay Alive.

That kind of behavior will get you an 'F' in shop class, missy.

Memorable Moment: I’m not sure if it was a monumentally bad acting choice or if the actress playing her suffered a stroke (in which case, I am an asshole), but the requisite explainer character talks exactly like someone making fun of Barbara Walters. “They destwoyed all the wecords, but she swoah she would be wezzuwwected…”

Choice quote: “Perceptive reality has yielded some really interesting studies…it seems the longer you play the more your subconscious mind perceives the game world to be reality. It’s only a theory, of course.” Now that is fucking SCIENCE. Somebody call Focus on the Family.

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3 Responses to “Stay Alive (2006)”

  1. […] Stay Alive – Eye fatigue is no longer the most dangerous result of video games. […]

  2. […] Stay Alive – Eye fatigue is no longer the most dangerous result of video games. […]

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