Directed by William Brent Bell, 2006
Considering this site has gained an audience outside of my immediate circle of friends, my relationship with Stay Alive probably needs to be re-explained in order to fully understand the inferno of rage.
Over two plus years ago I decided to make a horror movie. A horror movie about genuine nerds. It was called The LAN and, to cut to the chase, it was about a dozen or so geeks getting killed at a LAN party. While writing the script Stay Alive was announced. Not only was it announced, but it was going to be filming around the same time we were. Stay Alive was supposed to be about nerds dying while playing a game. I wasn’t so much angry with the fact that both films were about nerds dying, but that the McG produced Stay Alive was clearly shaping up to be a power-gloved slap in the face to people like me everywhere. I vowed to never pay to see the movie, so I feel no guilt in saying I have now seen it and still haven’t paid for it. I use the internet – you do the math.
The LAN was my child. I can, however, admit in retrospect that its production would inevitably be the rusty coat hanger that ripped open the placenta of my dreams. I’ve spent the last year embarrassed of how much of an utter failure I was as a director, producer, screenwriter, human being – you name it, I failed it – however, watching Stay Alive makes me feel like Akira Kurosawa.
Stay Alive is bad. Stay Alive is everything wrong with Hollywood filmmaking condensed into an undulating ball of ignorance that somehow melts the soul of whoever is subjected to it.
Go through the ingredients of filmmaking. Take whatever you can think of (acting, direction, music, script, characters etc. etc.) and just add the word ‘Bad’ in front of it and you have the recipe for Stay Alive. The thing with Stay Alive is that you can point to any of those obvious ingredients and immediately understand how rotten they are. Or you can look at the smaller things – the things only nerds like myself would notice – and see how negligent they are.
The effects are laughable and often times rival the quality of Boa vs. Python vs. Komodo. The ‘original’ score somehow claws at senses even beyond hearing. The acting is…my god. People who are normally decent actors, like Samaire Armstrong and Adam Goldberg, are just horrible here. It isn’t even the moldy dialogue they are forced to choke out, it’s the complete disrespect for an actor’s presence that casts them aside.
The horror part of this horror movie certainly tries but doesn’t deliver. The pathetic thing here is that even in the ‘unrated’ director’s cut it’s obvious that PG-13 was always written on the walls. The only thing that pushes this DVD-only cut beyond PG-13 is profanity, not violence or gore or the required components of R horror. It contains all the same awkward framing of blood bodies that aren’t that bloody with wounds that are never seen as countless other studio fed failures.
The movie never escapes portraying gamers as nothing more than un-relateable meth addicts who are apparently incapable of social norms. Normal people play games, you fucking jackasses. Not every gamer in the world is some fetish crazed fashion disaster who lives wildly on the social fringe. We’re normal – how hard is that to convey?
And the logic of the script is never coherent. People are supposed to die in real life when they die in game, only the script constantly changes the rules. So much so that Frankie Muniz actually says, "Bitch that’s cheating! I’m not even dead yet!" Unless your film is mocking its own conventions, you shouldn’t point out within it that it doesn’t make sense.
I’ll give some credit to American McGee, who was supposedly behind the in-game sequences though imdb doesn’t list it, for creating a genuinely appealing video game. But that’s the only positive thing I have to say about the movie and I say it with hesitance.
This is beyond my personal hatred for being passingly similar to my failed dreams, this is objectively just horrible filmmaking. Bad, bad, bad stuff.
If Stay Alive were actually a commercial success I’d say it just set nerds back to pre-Dungeons and Dragons, pizza-face stereotyping, but thank God it was a disaster, even with its target audience. So instead, Stay Alive is just a rotting turd that should – but probably won’t – confirm that the people behind its script and direction should never work again. It makes my own admitted piece of trash script look like Shakespeare – and for that I should probably thank it.
Now I’m not so embarrassed and actually want to post the script for all to laugh at, because at least it isn’t this fucking bad. And my script was pretty bad.