Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Horror of Video Games: Stay Alive

Last week, I received a review copy of a new teen horror film, Stay Alive, from the folks at Buena Vista Home Video. Brandi and I watched it over the weekend, and for what it was, it wasn't that bad.

The premise is that there's this "underground" survival/horror video game, called – you guessed it – Stay Alive, and if you play it, you unleash the evil of the game story into the real world. Even worse – as the ad copy makes explicit – if you die in the game, you suffer the same fatal fate in reality, at the hands of the Blood Countess.

The story incorporates (and takes great liberties with) the legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who, so obsessed with maintaining her youth and beauty, took to slaughtering female virgins and bathing in their blood. According to the film, the Countess apparently fled Europe for the American South, where she resumed her sanguinary beauty treatments at a local plantation. It is this plantation that is the setting for the video game. In fact, much of the film takes place in the video game "world," and I have to admit, as a guy who's sat alone in the dark playing Resident Evil late at night, it actually looks like it might be fun – and scary – to play.

The cast is made up of your usual group of attractive, young twenty-somethings. The only face that was familiar to me was Agent Cody Banks himself, Frankie Muniz, as one of the die-hard gamers who uncover the game's sinister secret.

Sure, the dialogue can be cheesy, and you don't have to have seen as many horror movies as I have to figure out by the end of the first act which characters are going to die and which are going to survive, but it's fairly well acted (as these kinds of flicks go) and the direction by William Brent Bell is competent and occasionally suspenseful.

The movie is vailable in two different DVD editions – as a full-frame, PG-13 version which not only cuts out almost all of the (already minimal) gore and profanity, not to mention nearly half of the picture, and an unrated, 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen version. Obviously, the unrated, widescreen edition is the preferable one.

Not a classic, but I found it entertaining, and will probably watch it again one of these days.

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