Often there will be a scene in a horror movie where some foolish teen inadvertently unleashes a great evil by reading aloud from an ancient spell book… while the viewers scream at the screen for them to shut their stupid mouths. One of the smartest things about Stay Alive (2006) is that in this case the “spell” is the introductory scrolling text to a seemingly innocuous computer game, which the protagonists have to speak out loud in order to unlock the character creation screen, and begin their virtual quest. Neat, huh? Actually, on second thoughts, that’s probably the only smart thing about this movie. It would take much longer to document all of the stupidity… such as the fact that the movie’s main villain is a reincarnated ‘Elizabeth Bathory’, who supposedly lived and died in New Orleans… rather than Hungary, like those lying history books claim! Apparently in the extended “Director’s Cut” the characters actually track down the mortal creator of the game that’s cursed them to die horrible icky deaths… but in the “theatrical version” I saw, you’re just left to wonder how exactly a 16th Century Countess learned to write code and put all that cool CGI together!
As far as I’m concerned though, the dumbest thing this movie does is kill off the most entertaining characters first, and leave the angst-ridden bores to live another day, dammit. First out is Adam Goldberg, playing the hero’s game-addicted boss, ‘Miller Banks’… who isn’t really that interesting as written, but Goldberg brings his usual jittery charm to the role, and has a lot of fun with the scene where he’s chased around his deserted office by spooky noises and such. Then there’s Jimmi Simpson as the hero’s crude, careless friend, ‘Phineus Bantum’(!), who gets all the best lines, and steals every scene he’s in. Bless. I’m going to break with the blog’s standard protocol and include an image of Simpson with this post, simply because he’s so hilarious here… and because I neglected to mention how funny he was in Herbie: Fully Loaded (and D.E.B.S. too, of course).
Normally, I’d be raving about Samaire Armstrong, who plays the hero’s love interest ‘Abigail’ here… but her character is so bland, I can barely work up the energy. She first appears at his best friend’s funeral, shoving an antique camera into his face and snapping pictures, without even asking permission first… and she doesn’t get any easier to like from there. Later they throw in a reveal about how she’s destitute and living out of her van, but it’s so out-of-the-blue, and so irrelevant to the story, I’m not really sure why they bothered. On the plus side, she does look super-pretty… and I love the lilting way she sobbed the line “Go away!”… but other than that, meh. The hero’s quasi-goth ex-girlfriend (?), ‘October Bantum’ is played by Sophia Bush… but aside from a load of exposition about Bathory and witchy things, she doesn’t contribute very much to the proceedings.
Sigh. I still kinda wanna see the Director’s Cut though… I mean, overall this is a rubbish movie… but it’s fairly entertaining rubbish, and I’m curious to see what the extra scenes add to the experience… besides more blood, bongs, and that lady who played the Borg Queen!