“If you had any less sense, you’d be half a penny.”

Morgan Morel
“Dude, this would have never happened on my iBook.” (Courtesy of Hollywood)

Yes, isn’t it beautiful – the wit of modern horror?

But don’t worry. “Stay Alive” isn’t just poetics. It has an original plot as well: There’s a video game, and if you die in that game, you die in real life the same way you died in the game. American society is fortunate that something like this didn’t happen in the late ’80s. If it had, the entirety of the 2006 graduating class would be long dead from accidental contact with a giant turtle’s pixilated face.

On the other hand, there might be a few left that would have gotten to hook up with Toadstool. And that, my friends, would be worth it.

“Stay Alive” is basically an interactive version of “The Ring,” only dramatically less intelligent and with about 20 little barefoot undead girls who can’t seem to walk correctly (instead of, you know, just one).

According to the movie’s legend, these little girls were all murdered by a freaky 17th-century countess named Elizabeth Bathory who lived on a plantation in New Orleans. The video game in question, called “Stay Alive,” is based on her life.

Avid gamer Hutch (Jon Foster, “The Door in the Floor”) inherits the game just after the death of his friend, who had been testing it out for the production company. Only after Hutch has started playing it himself, though, does he begin to realize that the game itself may have been the cause of his friend’s death. Now, as he and his friends play, they start to die one by one in ways eerily similar to their respective digital dooms.

Eventually, they trace the game company back to the Bathory’s old plantation (apparently, after she died, she taught herself C++ and built a kick-ass production studio in the basement), where game and reality fuse. Here they must defeat the old witch or die on the point of her antique scissors.

The film succeeds at one thing: It’s scary. First-time writer/director William Brent Bell capitalizes on the suspense built in between the time when the digital character dies and when its human counterpart dies, while also playing on the human fears of deformity and ambulatory dead things.

But this has all been done before. The “Final Destination” series uses the same type of suspense, and films like “The Grudge” and even “The Exorcist” have pushed deformity to its fullest potential. “Stay Alive” basically has an originality that begins and ends with the interactive component of the death plot – and even that was a central tenet of the ’80s cult hit “BrainScan.”

They did manage, though, to avoid the racial stereotypes so often found in this type of movie. In lieu of a black guy, they kill the best actor first – which is too bad; the cast could’ve used his help. Foster can’t even sell himself as a gamer, let alone a gamer in a deadly situation.

On top of the bland performances, the plot suffers from loose logic and a predictable ending also ripped from “The Ring.” The movie is altogether unremarkable, falling into the blurry horror filmscape of the last 10 years.

Oh, and by the way, the girl in the preview who looks like Elisha Cuthbert (“House of Wax”) is not Elisha Cuthbert. All the more reason to stay away.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Stay Alive
At Showcase and Quality 16
Hollywood

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