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Irreconcilable Differences: Stay Alive

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I've promised the last couple times that the First Lady and I would disagree from time to time, yet so far we've seen eye to eye on most things. Finally we have a pretty big break in view points as we dig into Stay Alive, a modern day slasher on the surface that turns out to be not so modern when you get down to the nitty gritty.

She says:

Being a gamer chick, I was looking forward to seeing Stay Alive. Now, I have seen a number of video game based movies, so I wasn't holding any high expectations for it. This movie is about a video game in which if you die in it, you will die the same way in real life. (All I could think was if I get ganked by a gnome rogue or a swarm of murlocks in the near future, I am gonna be pissed!)

We start out our story with a scruffy looking gamer guy (Milo Ventimiglia) who is supposedly beta testing this new game called Stay Alive. Unfortunately he dies in the game and is relatively spooked by it. He checks in on his roommate and his girlfriend who had already died in game as well and are busy "porking" – literally, as the guy had some sort of pig mask on. Don't ask me, I didn't direct or costume this movie. We see Ventimiglia's character bite it as he did in the game, and we can only surmise that the couple met a similar outcome.

Now we meet our main character, an office worker named Hutch (Jon Foster), and his boss (Adam Goldberg) who is needing help with a game he is playing. Hutch hears about his buddy's demise and goes off to attend the funeral where runs into his buddy's roommate's girlfriend's friend. (Yeah, can we get more complicated?) After the funeral, the deceased little sister hands some of the friend's personal belonging over, including all the video games he had. So Hutch, the new girl, and Hutch's friends all decide to play the game together. Long story short, they start to die like they did in game, which is when they realize there is more behind it. Let's find the Mystery Machine and solve this mystery, gang!

While I enjoyed the film, some aspects of it are a bit out there, even for me. For example, one of the characters, played by Frankie Muniz, plays the game while a couple of the others are searching the house that the game is based on. Some how, his character happens to drop a crowbar that was needed or happens to have a key to unlock a door. These aren't things that are likely to happen in "real life."

The story behind the video game is supposed to be based on a woman named Elizabeth Bathory. Bathory was known as one of Hungary's biggest serial killers in the 1600's. She thought that by bathing in and ingesting virgin blood that she would retain her youth and beauty. As this theme has been played upon in countless movies, I was a little dismayed that they decided to completely ruin her story. First and foremost they made it set in New Orleans. Don't get me wrong, I love New Orleans's rich and dark history, but to set Bathory here was an erroneous choice. It is like turning the Titanic into a Carnival Cruise. New Orleans has a ton of bloody and horrific stories the writers could have chosen for this film. They would have done better choosing Madame La Laurie to base the villain off of, as it would make more sense and they could have gotten further with the storyline set in New Orleans.

The characterization was good, but they didn't follow through on a lot of the story lines. Some of the characters weren't fleshed out, which didn't give us enough reason to actually care about them. The movie focused on some characters too much, and got to the point where we became bored with them and almost wanted them to die. Unfortunately, they didn't.

Also, the deaths were not creative enough. This is a video game — where is the sense of adventure? If they are already tearing apart a historical madwoman, why bother sticking with fact? The death by drawn carriage and scissors was way over done.

Some scenes were creepy, but others were very predictable. Another aspect that annoyed me was Hutch's friends and their sudden change of attitude. Hutch comes to his friends with his suspicions, but no one believes him, and then all of a sudden they believe him. Had there been a turning point or event that caused this dramatic change, I would have been satisfied, but there wasn't. One second they are shouting "bull shit," and the next they are all gung-ho.

I enjoyed the film despite its faults. Maybe it was because I am a gamer and got a kick out of the references and lingo. Maybe it was because I got to see Muniz in a non-whiney role.

I will give it 3 kills to level out of 5.

He says:

I watch a lot of crap. Scroll through the site and you'll see I can enjoy some pretty bad movies. Every now and then I stumble across a flick that just straight pisses me off, and Stay Alive is the latest to win that dubious honor.

There is a lot to roll your eyes over in this movie. Some are obvious, some are not so obvious. When we meet our gamers, we're presented with the most stereotypical group of teens that has been shown on film in this decade. There is a scruffy guy hopped up on Red Bull, a really good gamer dude that works in some big time corporate job, a goth chick/gamer who's edgy and flirty, and a stoner dude who runs the LAN center filled with catch phrases stupid humor. Even more annoying is the hippy dippy blonde chick who stalks Hutch at the first funeral and attaches herself to the group. Rounding them out, there's a club kid gamer with his upside down visors and video gamed themed wardrobe who's all about the gear. Really rather annoying and in your face screaming, "HAY! THEY'RE GAMERZ!"

What's odd is that this isn't what pissed me off. It's a movie based on a killer video game. Sure, you're going to have over-stereotyped kids. It's pretty much expected. Annoying, but expected. What set me off this time around is the plot and the plot holes that go along with it.

I'll be up front with it: How the hell can you connect the Bathory legends with a video game? It just doesn't mesh. As I explained to the First Lady of Fright post viewing, I would have given this flick a lot more leeway had it not been for the inclusion of Elizabeth Bathory. They're in New Orleans, for crying out loud! In a city known for its creepy legends, voodoo, and Anne Rice's effeminate vampires, there is a plethora of untapped monsters that they could have been exploited. Instead, we're forced to watch the rave version of the Scooby gang chasing Old Lady Bathory on a chase sequence we've seen countless times before. I can't stress this fact enough. It's an overdone legend, and done piss poorly this time around. We all know how much of an Ingrid Pitt fanboy I can be, and I was bored with this tale when I watched her take on it.

Rehashing aside, there are so many other issues here that the movie transcends from bad to infuriating. Horror fans demand some originality in the kills. Even the mongoloid haunting Camp Crystal Lake managed to change things up a bit from victim to victim. Apparently, Ms. Bathory took care of business with only a pair of scissors and a horse drawn carriage. Aside from scruffy guy in the beginning who offed himself with his own clumsiness, everybody more or less goes out in the same way. This woman was evil! She drained blood from virgins! Give the lady some credit here. I'm sure she could come up with something more sinister than pinking shears and a horsie. Combine this with her digitized minions done in such shoddy CGI chasing the victims to her, Ms. Bathory apparently employs the help of a pack of Digimon to aide in her death and debauchery.

What probably sets me off the most is the use of a band of angsty teenagers and the order they're killed off. Long time viewers of the slasher genre know there's usually an unspoken formula on who's going to die and who's going to live. Generally if there is a male star in the film, he will make it through to the end. He's our hero. Normally if hero guy is going to make it, there will be one female companion that survives as well. She will generally be his love interest as well as bringing some element, however small, that will help them escape their torment by the final frame. Stay Alive throws those rules to the way side. Hutch is will make it because he's our hero guy who's figuring everything out. That leaves us with Goth Gamer Girl and Hippy Dippy Chick. Two enter, only one survives! As goth chick poured through her handy general goth chick handbooks of witchcraft and dark stuff™, she began to put together how to kill off the angry old lady in the tower. By solving the mystery, she became the film's Velma. It seems pretty logical that she would make it through the end, so when she got killed off even before Frankie Muniz, my ire began to rise.

When it became apparent that Hippy Dippy was going to make it through to the end (the Daphne of the group, if you're following along), it seemed that all logic was lost. She brought absolutely nothing to the table but stupidity and being caught in compromising situations. When they entered the house, she was told to stay put, but as soon as she heard a noise, she turned and ran up stairs. With her myriad of stupid choices through out the flick, and the fact that she wasn't even a true gamer, the audience is left with a girl who served no purpose in reaching the goal, except perhaps a warning that video game nerds need to date outside their species. With cute goth chick dead and gone, and Daphne calling the shots, there was nothing left to do but swear loudly at the TV screen for the remaining twenty minutes.

With those glaring issues clouding my vision, the rest of Stay Alive was just a blur. The thoughts behind the flick were solid enough; however, they over shot their target badly and made it feel cobbled together and falling short of their grand expectations. By becoming annoying and frustrating as opposed to the usual campy, the interest factor bottomed out early on and flat lined completely when the killed of the cute goth chick. If you want to see a movie about a killer video game, this isn't the movie to watch. A good killer video game like Brainscan was ten times better, even if it starred Eddie Furlong.

1 digital douche bag out of 5

And somebody please kill the Hippy Dippy chick. I beg you.

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