Hutch MacNeil (Jon Foster) is the ring-leader of a hard-core group of gaming buddies. Together, they take on warlocks and witches throughout cyberspace. No doubt two of the most hideous words any of them can hear are “Game Over.” Little do they realize the sheer significance of that phrase, especially when it could be the difference between life and death.
Hutch’s life has been filled with pain and suffering. He lost his mother after his father torched the family house. The fire left Hutch with a nasty scar and a deathly fear of fire. But things only get worse when three of Hutch’s gaming buddies are brutally murdered. At their funeral, one of the victim’s sisters gives Hutch a bag with the friend’s laptop and all of his video games.
One of them, a beta game named Stay Alive, Hutch determines to be the last game his friends were playing before they were murdered. Hutch and his friends, Swink Sylvania (Frankie Muniz), October Bantum (Sophia Bush), Phineus Bantum (Jimmi Simpson), and Hutch’s boss Miller (Adam Goldberg), decide to pay homage to their late pals by beating the game that they were last playing.
The gothic horror game pits its players against the undead minions of the ruthless, bloodthirsty Elizabeth Bathory. The gamers sense something is not right, however, when they have to recite a chilling séance before they can enter the game.
Their suspicions are soon confirmed. Miller’s character meets a brutal end at the hands of Countess Bathory via a pair of shards through the neck. The next morning, Hutch finds police investigating the real murder of Miller, via (again) a pair of shards through the neck.
At first, the remaining friends pass off the incident as mere coincidence, but upon further investigation, they discover the first group of friends were also killed in the same fashion as in the game. Still a little skeptical but not willing to take any chances, they put the game up for good. Soon, however, as the sinister happenings continue, they realize that the game is now playing them.
One by one, the Countess is coming for each of them, and it becomes apparent that death in the game means death in real life. As the body count rises, Hutch and the surviving gamers must race against time to uncover the long-kept secret of the Countess before she hunts down and systematically murders each of them.
Stay Alive does its best to add a new flavor to an all-too familiar and overdone teen slasher genre. And although it fails to deliver a whole lot of worthwhile material, it does keep its viewers interested and on the edge of their seats, despite some glaring problems in the script.
As the game begins, it is made clear the only way to defeat the Countess is to discover the mystery of her manor. The viewers are never given that. [Spoiler Warning] Even though a few of the members of the group survive the game, they do by killing the Countess, not by discovering her secrets. Therefore, viewers are left wondering what the mystery actually was. Also, it is unclear whether victory in the game will bring back Hutch’s fallen comrades. This problem becomes even more confusing when, at the end of the film, we see one of those previously dead friends alive and well. The others, however, are nowhere to be seen, and the viewers never know their whereabouts.
Obvious plot holes are the main reason this film falls fall short of its predecessors (i.e. Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Halloween) but cheesy dialogue and less-than-spectacular character performances also hinder its credibility.
As with any slasher flick, Stay Alive has its share of violence. For the most part, however, the violence is contained and only the aftermath of the murders is shown.This makes the movie bearable to witness, which is more than can be said for this season’s shock-and-awe blood-fest, Hostel.
Plain and simple, Stay Alive is nothing special. The violence has been toned down enough to attract young viewers looking for a mindless thrill, but it lacks substance. The movie’s glaring plot holes leave a bad taste in viewers’ mouths, and it fails to deliver anything that hasn’t been seen before. Gamers out there looking for a movie to fit their senseless hobbies should most definitely stick to Halo.