Frankie Muniz, Jon Foster, and Samaire Armstrong star in a film written by William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman and directed by Bell.
Reviewed by D.J. Palladino
Horror takes a lot of artistry, like telling an offensive joke. If you build it beautifully, people will thank you for showing them eviscerated teenagers, bloodied corporate executives, and even the occasional baby doll with worms crawling out of its cute eyes. What’s terrific about Stay Alive is that it shows you all of the above with enough sneaky suspense, red herrings, and murder-able gamers to say you saw the gore and you were pretty cool with it.
Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in TV’s Malcolm in the Middle) appears in this creepy film about a computer game that kills those who “die” in its ghastly gaming levels. But real chemistry emulsifies between Jon Foster (Eddie in The Door in the Floor) and Samaire Armstrong (Anna Stern on The OC). The kiss they share just after her near-gutting is almost funny but somehow hot. And that’s what I’m talking about, horror. It’s bad taste skating on the thin ice of beauty.
But Stay Alive, which features no scenes of John Travolta using his walk, talks itself out of a strong catharsis. Certain realistic trauma haunts our lead hunk, and instead of providing him a chance to breathe after it, the camera takes off and sets up a franchise for the future cloning of game and film. The evil has been slain, but, alas, the marketing has just begun for you, John Q.
I won’t bemoan the triumph of commerce over art. This is a slasher flick, dude. I’m just sorry something scary had to succumb to such a horrible formula.