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Friday, 19 July 2013

Stay Awake While I Talk About Stay Alive

You may or may not have noticed, but I kind of like horror movies. Of the staggering 4 reviews I've done, a mind-blowing 50% of them have been on horror films. That's like at least half of all the movies I've watched for this blog. Dafuq!?

You. Right now.
And if there's any type of horror movie that will draw me in like a celluloid siren (totally the name of my punk rock band) with it's mesmerising promises of audio-visual wonder, its the cheesily bad budget flick with a spectacularly over the top name and a usually too-good-to-be-true premise. That's why I've sat through such classic masterpieces as My Super Psycho Sweet 16 and the slightly more upper class Wrong Turn slasher movies. Although, that said, up until I just googled that link I didn't realise there were five of them... Someone's got their weekend entertainment lined up!

When I become a parent, these films will be my babysitters.
Oh yeah, um... Gore warning for this post in case some of you are squeamish. If you aren't but happen to recommend this to any friends who are, it might be a good idea to direct them to this helpful advice before they read any further. Say its just underneath the eyeball kebab.

So, any guesses as to what this review might be on, class? No, Timmy, it's not Beauty and the Beast. Or Brokeback Mountain. Or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Timmy, have your parents taken the time to measure your Kinsey rating, or activate your Netflix's parental control settings for that matter? Anyone else got a suggestion?

"Shut the fuck up, Timmy."
Yup, it's a horror flick, this one to be precise. Stay Alive is my kind of movie. Horror, video gaming, low budget, an IMDb rating below 5 and a unique(ish) gimmick; in this case it is a mysterious video game that kills you if your character dies in-game, essentially like an interactive rip-off of The Ring.

To celebrate the occasion, lets shake things up a little. I'm straying from the usual style of reviewing through the process of screaming retrospectively at the computer until words come out in a random order and I shall instead attempt to write my critique on the fly as the film plays out so you may experience the full onslaught of my undiluted wrath. For you safety I suggest you change into clothing that does not contain nylon and ensure you have adequate birth control measures in place for your pets. When you are ready, we may begin.

This is not adequate birth control. However nor is it animal cruelty, and thus the world is balanced again.
Ok, got my cuppa and a Dip Dab. Lets do this shit. Opening credits, nothing special here apart from the tell-tale sign of a low-budget movie: the title of the movie is also the name of the production company. This is going to be good, I can feel it.

Holy shit, they really pulled out all the stops here, that CGI is just...ooft. Oh, wait, its meant to look crappy, its a video game! One which appears to have borrowed very heavily from the grandparents of survival horror: Resident Evil and Silent Hill. A big creaky mansion (former) and nothing but a torch to guide you (latter). This is actually slightly creepy, and despite the pasted textures the graphics are on par with what you'd get on a PS2 game, so not too bad. I'm going to assume this is the murderous game that we'll be seeing a lot of in the next 90 minutes, where you apparently die in the same way that your character dies in the game. At least it has the courtesy to make little polygonal versions of each of the main characters so we know which one is about to die horribly.

They should have made it GTA IV, I want to see what happens when you glitch to death.
Although on a game design stand point this thing must be boring as hell. There only seems to be one type of enemy in the whole game, a horde of expressionless zombie children who enjoy being shot at. The variety of enemies on show here makes Call of Duty look as accommodating as a gay pride rally on free anal lube day. You'd be lucky to actually hit any of the enemies anyway thanks to the lack of a crosshair and the slowest camera turning speed this side of a Katamari. It's almost like this game wasn't designed to be played, but to be watched... A scathing remark on the state of modern video games as they become too cinematic, maybe? 

These identical rotten children represent the collective imagination of the film's writers.
Was that a very poorly executed nod to The Shining pig mask scene I just saw there? You people are just trying to cram this thing with as many pop culture references as possible, aren't you? From Fatal Frame to Q*bert, there's even an entire scene based around a Silent Hill 4 reference; it's just too bad you evidently got mixed up with which game you were meant to be talking about, cause not one of the things you mention in this scene is possible in that game, but they totally are in the first one. Ten for effort, two for accuracy.

You are the Eddie the Eagle of the referencing world.
So the premise is set and that whiny guy from Heroes is killed off in one fell swoop; efficiently done, Stay Alive. Ah, here comes some plot development in the form of the token funeral where our protagonist will undoubtedly find out about the evil killer game from another guest who has a complete disregard for the feelings of those present. 

Wow. The sister of the recently deceased teenager has her priorities so skewed that she thought it necessary to bring her dead brother's video games to his funeral to give to his friend? It's good to see that this guy's closest friends and family have the integrity to bounce back from his sudden, violent death like a hunk of ripe halloumi, but it's a little insensitive to be sifting through his belongings the afternoon of his funeral. Who does that?! If I die I do not want my family and friends starting to sort through my DVD collection before I'm even in the ground!

"Stop the funeral! I forgot to take his watch!"
There's some really original characters being introduced here. We've got the hunky protagonist with tacked-on childhood trauma issues, the annoying best friend whom we'll enjoy watching get dismembered, that geeky guy (Malcolm in the Middle appears to be taking his place here) who will be the first to inform the other characters of why they keep on dying before promptly sacrificing himself for the good of the group, some other character who'll be the first to die because we have absolutely no emotional attachment to him, hot goth chick cannon fodder and the blonde girl who will almost definitely survive. And breathe!

Sadly those are the well developed characters in the bunch. We are also exposed to some truly memorable police work from the movie's resident investigating officer. You receive your first clue on a case from a witness who voluntarily gave you the information including an alibi verifiable by four other people and the first thing you choose to do is accuse him of committing the murder. Bravo. And you don't even have the courtesy to obstruct the view of the body from the general public. Or to get acting lessons. This guy waddles around the set like a large, brown, human-shaped seal and acts with about the same amount of enthusiasm as a old lady shopping for new compression stockings. Hell, she'd probably make a better cop than all of the guys in this movie combined; chubby's deputy is so eager to get killed by the game that he pretty much trips over himself to get to it.

"You. Throw yourself on the enemy until he tires out his stabbing hand. I'll be awkwardly shuffling round furniture."
Boring characters and bad acting aside, it looks like we're getting to some proper gore now. Sure, deaths one and two were pretty tame, a hanging and some very shiny garden shears to the neck respectively, but it looks like victim number three will be getting smooshed good and proper by the EVIL HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE OF DOOM! *spooky ghost noises*

The fuck? The camera just cut away, and now he's lying on the ground with what appears to be a small graze on his forehead. Where's the being run down by angry horses? Where's the horseshoe imprint on the face and body sliced in two by carriage wheels? This sucks...

And now you burn a NES controller for no reason, you blasphemers!

You're actively trying to make me hate you, aren't you?
I think I'm losing faith here. So all of a sudden the video game is actually the incarnation of the undead soul of some evil woman and blah blah something something there's been nowhere near enough focus on the game or on people dying horribly. Shut up with the crazy witch lady mumbo jumbo and get back to murdering, we're more than halfway through and only three people are dead.

My bad. This incidental shot of a sheet of paper says she's a vampire from Transylvania.  And you have to exorcise her.
Make your mind up on which monster you want to pretend a real life serial killer totally wasn't, for chrissake!
At least one character acknowledges the ridiculous concept of a murderous video game and attempts to debunk it for approximately eight seconds. Luckily goth chick jumps in to make a very convincing argument for the crazy murderous game camp by essentially spelling out the entirety of the completely inconsequential and horrifically inaccurate lore surrounding our main antagonist along with everything we already knew thanks to the posters and movie tagline. I missed most of it because I just got a Plants vs. Zombies update and now seemed like as good a time as any to check my Zen Garden.

Why would a person go outside to smoke and just casually wander into a construction site miles away from the house they were in? Is the whole street a no smoking area? Plus it is extremely irresponsible to light up in a place most likely packed with dust and flammable materials. You're just asking to be burnt to a crisp, goth girl. Nope, just a good old throat cutting? Fine then. Sigh.

The deaths here are approximately 80% more imaginative and entertaining.
No! You do not suddenly change your own rules during the finale, that completely destroys the point of the film. That is like a horror movie number one no-no! I'm afraid that is the final straw. Nope, there's no point trying to redeem yourself now, you've muffed it good and proper. I've had enough. My critique has become angry and disjointed and I don't know what to do any more. Cue conclusion.

The story is clich├ęd, the characters have been torn straight from a TV Tropes page (minus the crippling number of in-jokes), the script tries too hard to force pop culture references out like a constipated Tarantino and the special effects are appropriately video-gamey, even in the real world. This is exactly what I was expecting when I sat down but I'm still disappointed. Every time I watch one of these I really hope from the bottom of my heart that I'll be surprised and somehow, against all odds, the film will dazzle me with a rich story and conservative scares that are all but lost in the big-budget, gore-tastic, Hollywood-ized, hyphen-riddled affairs we're used to. Alas, I will continue my search with earnest, for there is no such film here. Stay Alive, go sit on the naughty step and think about what you've done.

Just shove Timmy's corpse over. Rigor mortis has stuck him like that.

Overall Ben Equivalence Rating

Making Your Own Halloween Costume at the Age of Seven -
There's always so much promise and enthusiasm, but you're inexperienced, can't make head nor tail of the source material and lack adequate resources for the job. Eventually it just ends up awkward and you're the laughing stock of everyone involved. 

Wait. It's actually more like my first sexual encounter...close enough.

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