STUDIO: Hollywood Pictures
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 101 Minutes
• Commentary
• Interactive menus (for reals)
• Visual effects reel

The Pitch

meets Scream! Self-absorbed meets self-referential!"

The Humans

Armstrong (The OC), Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill), Frankie Muniz (Malcolm
in the Middle
), Jon Foster (Life as a House)

The Nutshell

In the
middle ages, there was a countess in
Romania by the name of Elizabeth Bathory.
The rumors that surround her are manifold, but they tend to agree on a certain
piece of legend: Ms. Bathory rather enjoyed bathing in the blood of virgins.
She thought it renewed her youth. Then, apparently, she transplanted to

In the
modern day, her ghost still thirsts for the blood of… hell, she’ll take
anybody now. What’s the best way to find victims? Why, through a video game, of
course! A plucky group of gamers finds themselves in mortal danger as they
start dying, one-by-one, in real life the same way their characters died in the

"Do you mind? I’m rutting, here."

The Lowdown

legend of the Bloody Countess is a damn good place to plant the seeds of a
story, especially a horror one. The mythology surrounding Bathory is rich with
the source of many a modern-day cliché, much like that of Vlad the Impaler. If
I recall correctly, there’s another film in development hell right now that
deals more directly with the legend and its gruesome origins. It has the
potential to be scary, in a Silence of the Lambs fashion. Stay
, on the other hand…

There are
quite a few parallels that can be drawn between Stay Alive and the recent
movie. Both draw on ill-defined — but undoubtedly nasty — source
material; both play fan-service in their numerous references to video game
properties; and neither are particularly scary. This unrated cut of Stay
gives you jump scares instead of atmosphere, and doesn’t deviate
from that rut from frame one to frame n.
The trend of teen-oriented horror has been to bend more toward claustrophobic
action than in the direction of any particular psychological depth or darkness,
and Stay
goosesteps right into line. Unrated cut or no, you’ll find no formal
creativity here.

The film
also manages to squeeze in just about a critical mass of game references. The Silent
and Fatal Frame survival horror series are mentioned, and one
character even carries around an old-timey camera around everywhere she goes,
just like the protagonists in Fatal Frame games. The famous
"Konami code" appears, as a nude code that Frankie Muniz’ geeky
character manages to discover. Some dead guy’s lighter has the Playstation
symbols etched into its side. It turns the movie into something like Grandma’s
, a piece of entertainment targeted at gamers who really have better
things to do with their time.

"I’ve got it! The monolith can be found at the pyramids of Giza… on a full moon!"

It also
has the unfortunate effect of actually distancing that target crowd, because
while there are sly nods galore, the actual game content in the film is so
frightfully inaccurate in design and execution that it’ll make every last gamer
in the audience squirm in his seat. It’s the old "They don’t do it like
that!" mentality that comes up whenever firefighters watch Backdraft,
or when doctors watch ER. Often, sacrifices of realism for
the sake of drama contribute to a compelling story that’s just real enough to
sell it to the audience; but here it comes off feeling way more like the film
is your younger sibling, trying to riff on whatever you think is cool.

I mean…
Five players on a single console playing networked with a guy at his office
computer? Not until Live Anywhere! You’re a few months ahead of schedule, Stay

quality this flick shares with Silent Hill is that both are
completely incoherent. I suspect that’s a result of similar writing methods, in
which the writer is confronted with a depth of interesting source material, and
then completely fails to realize it on the page, even though his director probably
told him it kicked ass. (William Brent Bell both co-wrote and directed Stay
. I don’t want to suggest that the guy has a problem with an
under-practiced internal editor, but I think I just did.)

He didn’t even get the chance to grow up into Mr. Brace Face.

interaction between the video game and the real world is barely described. The
rules that apply to the causes of the deaths seem to change at random. The
connection between the developer of the game and the lady Bathory is undersold.
Character arcs get tossed around in formula land, apparently well away from
each other. The Big Plan at the conclusion seems to be missing a few parts in
execution that were decided upon during planning. Add to that a few unfortunate
editing accidents, which make a couple characters into unwittingly outright
liars, and the result is a seriously bumpy ride.

points in the film’s credit: 1)
Bell managed to work a small backhanded
slap at Jack Thompson and similar critics of video gaming with a fairly neat
argument about correlation and causality. Of course, the story then resolves it
so that the correlation is perfectly apt for describing the cause, so maybe
Bell is in Thompson’s pocket after

2) The
endgame is actually a pretty slick piece of work. No scares, but plenty of
action and torment upon our characters, including a showdown in wild roses, and
a full-frontal Bathory preparing to drive a halberd into Samaire Armstrong’s
juicy little neck. Of course, another caveat:
the final blow is struck with an Alienware laptop.

not a bad way to conclude the description of this fun, shallow, and confused
piece of bottom shelf fodder: I’m a gamer, and you had me right up until you
lost me. It didn’t take long.

I bet they moved her eyes to the back of her head. Sneaky…

The Package

thing you’ll notice about this disc is that the main menus give you some
options to create a little character to play a mini-game. This mini-game is a
waste of time. Basically, you play dress-up with your character, and try to
find the right gender/shirt/weapon combination to advance. There are a lot of
combinations, and only three are arbitrarily "correct."

Apart from that little time waster, you get what is billed as a visual effects
reel. Basically, they’re time-lapse tracings of FX work, but set to music, and
edited so as to make the process indecipherable.

Brent Bell and his co-writer Matthew Peterman also provide a full-length
commentary track. Both men are clever, and seem to enjoy themselves. They’re
funny, in a refreshingly unassuming way, and tease each other throughout. They
pick apart the problems they see with certain sequences (especially the
"in-game" footage.) They both shoulder significant amounts of the
content, so it’s worth having both of them on there. They are also, combined,
less pretentious than I am.

It gets
this score, but, hell, I’m keeping it in my collection:

4 out of 10