Stay Your Hand

The biggest laugh (in a choice parade of entirely unintentional guffaws) to be had in Stay Alive comes when geeky computer whiz-kid Frankie Muniz googles the term ‘perceptive reality’. The same search later made good reading for the film critic - the first hit leads to an essay about how difficult it can be sometimes to believe what is happening right before your eyes.

What follows in this dangerously anaemic slasher picture, built around the sub-Twilight Zone premise of a haunted video game hunting down and executing a gang of thick-headed, thumb-twiddling teenagers, provides more than a few more non sequiturs and inadvertent, eye-popping moments of hilarity but it is cruel, mocking laughter; this is one of the worst films of the year. See, the clownishly costumed ‘teens’, played by an array of pretty, tattooed no-marks and Malcolm in the Middle, all die in the real world in the same way as they die while playing the video game. It takes five of them to bite the dust (in various visually neutered, unimaginative methods of dismemberment) before those remaining take a break from reliving childhood traumas and figure this sequence of events out; making the players as dumb as the play and likely as dumb as the audience.

The source of the digital evil is The Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory (a real historical figure worthy of a googling herself), a sadist who terrorised the virgins of Eastern Europe in the 16th Century. Somehow, she has pitched up in modern-day New Orleans, inside the piece of cursed software, and proceeds to slake her thirst on the kids. According to Muniz’ search engine, the source of Bathory’s contemporary power is “homicidal replication on a sociopathic level”, a remark which makes as much sense as any of the rest of William Brent Bell’s hackneyed horror, more concerned with dropping hip references into the background (Steamboy, Halo) than it is in providing even a modicum of threat or fear up front. The cast are all eminently dislikeable; the story is rubbish and the dialogue swill while the cartoonish gore is kept to an absolute minimum. At no stage do they stop playing the game and find something better to do, like go to the movies.

This hopeless effort sets a new standard for ineptitude in a sub-genre already staggering under the weight of its own indulgence. Stay Alive? The challenge here is to Stay Awake or indeed, Stay Seated.

No comments: