This nonsense aired, of all times, at the same time Frightfest ’12 was going on. Being probably the biggest UK horror event, naturally TV channels often air horror films at that time.
However, it’s incredible that, on the same week a preview screening of Sinister, one of the rare genuinely scary modern Hollywood horrors, aired, a channel would air something that takes everything bad about most modern Hollywood horror and multiplies it exponentially.
This movie stuck with me because frankly, it’s hard to believe how awful it was. Onto the main flaws:
1 – The “ghost of Elizabeth Bathory” that, actually, is another generic ghost. It’s like a Ring knock-off about Ted Bundy’s ghost in which the ghost neither lulls victims into a false sense of security nor focuses on female victims. The entire Bathory “plot point” means absolutely nothing.
2 – Most big-budget horror films startle the viewers with jump “scares” rather than any method of scaring the audience that requires effort. But here there’s multiple jump “scares” within the few minutes.
3 – Many big-budget horrors ignore their own rules whenever its convenient, throwing suspension of disbelief out the window. This goes further. In the opening scene, two victims are found dead, while not having been playing the game. They attempt to rationalise that eventually, but by that point, anything resembling logic is long gone, and that attempt at explaining is very silly; “Maybe there are no rules!” – Then why is the spirit bound to killing whoever dies in the video game?
3b – It would’ve been very easy to avoid that, like having someone say “that text – the text we thought was setting the mood – that was a summoning spell. We’ve summoned a demon – one so sadistic, it’s killing us the way we die in the game, like it wants us to feel we’ve decided our own fate!”, for example.
Hey look, my explanation actually works. It also does away with the completely pointless Bathory references.
4 – They patted themselves on the back, incredibly early on too. A character mentions the video game is so creepy. Excuse me, no. Creepy means as in creeped out, meaning you actually feel something. Jump scares are the result of when you attempt to scare people without effort or talent. But I suppose if you can’t or don’t feel like making your movie scary, you can always tell the audience they’re watching something scary; maybe they’ll believe you.
5 – Frankie Muniz. It never feels like you’re not watching Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle. Inversely, in one of my favourite horror films, Wendigo, Erik van Sullivan appears – it does not appear like he’s playing Dewey from that same show. It’s never distracting. Not so in Stay Alive.
The most talented people involved were the TV announcers who try to make it sound interesting whenever it airs.
Maybe this “movie” should’ve been made for TV. Maybe without Hollywood producers, lazy writing etc., it could be… well, at least I might not have to put “movie” in quotation marks.