Stay Alive
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir William Brent Bell
scr William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman
with Jon Foster, Samaire Armstrong, Frankie Muniz, Jimmi Simpson, Sophia Bush, Adam Goldberg, Wendell Pierce, Rio Hackford, Maria Kalinina, Milo Ventimiglia, Lauren Lorbeck, Billy Slaughter
release US 24.Mar.06, UK 28.Jul.06
06/US Hollywood 1h25

Dude, where's my joystick: Bush, Muniz, Foster and Armstrong

foster armstrong muniz

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Stay Alive A lack of logic infects this film like a virus. And frankly, that's more frightening than anything the filmmakers come up with in this videogame-themed The Ring knock-off.

When the game tester Loomis (Ventimiglia) dies mysteriously, a group of colleagues (Foster, Armstrong, Muniz, Simpson, Bush and Goldberg) decide to check out the videogame he was playing: an underground title Stay Alive, about a creepy abandoned plantation and a ghostly, murderous countess (Kalinina). But one by one the gamers die just like they do on their computer screens, and then the game starts playing by itself, luring the surviving players to the real plantation for a fiery final confrontation.

This film was clearly devised by gamers, so it does have a certain visual inventiveness that keeps us watching. It also has a steady pace as it progresses onwards and upwards through the various levels to reach the concluding mayhem. And the young cast is engaging and extremely watchable; they actually seem to be taking the story seriously, which is rather hilarious because it's all so overwhelmingly corny.

Most of the actors are fairly generic, but in the central role Foster has a terrific screen presence. And he even manages to survive the requisite shirt-off moment with some impressive muscle definition. After his excellent work in The Door in the Floor, we had much higher hopes than this. We still do. Meanwhile, Muniz struggles bravely with his geeky sidekick role, clearly trying to transition from childish Malcolm/Cody roles into something more grown-up.

The cast is easily the best thing here. Despite frequent attempts at both humour and horror, director-cowriter Bell only generates a response with deafening soundtrack shrieks or cutaways to bugs or giant scissors or rusty nails. It's brisk and action-packed, but he just makes up the rules as he goes along, so nothing makes any sense at all. Even the death set-pieces are deeply random and uninteresting. And the setting is so clichéd that it's almost silly--a weeping-willow surrounded plantation, complete with foggy cemetery and sinister dark tower. Once the audience starts yawning, it's game over.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 2.Jun.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Stay Alive Jimmy, Shreve, Ohio: 4/5 "Ok - Sure I agree. It's tacky at best. Logic has definately taken a back seat in this film. The best part of the film in my humble opinion (other than October's cute face) is her brother Phinn. His wit was hilarious & I think he was removed (killed off) in the film entirely too soon. I think he made the film for me." (31.Dec.07)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall