Horror buffs looking for a novel twist on genre formulas should look elsewhere, but this body-count potboiler about a sinister video game and the poor dopes who make the mistake of playing it is the movie equivalent of junk food: It's not good, but it's predictable and even satisfying, in a low-expectations way. New Orleans-based gaming junkie Loomis Crowley (Milo Ventimiglia) supports his habit by beta testing new products, but he's never seen anything like Stay Alive. Not because it's superficially different from hundreds of first-person shooter games with supernatural twists, but because it's got a bloody (albeit PG-13 rated) will of its own, as Loomis and his friends Rex and Sarah (Billy Slaughter, Nicole Opperman) quickly discover: All three are brutally murdered in exactly the same way they were killed in the game. Unaware of the macabre link between the game and her brother's death, Loomis' little sister gives the Stay Alive disc to his longtime best friend, Hutch (Jon Foster). Hutch invites four friends sex-obsessed Phineus "Finn" Bantum (Jimmi Simpson) and his Goth-girl sister, October (Sophia Bush), motormouthed Swink Sylvania (Frankie Muniz, of TV's Malcolm in the Middle) and Abigail (Samaire Armstrong), the pretty amateur shutterbug he met at Loomis' funeral to gather at his fabulous Magazine Street loft and play a round in Loomis' memory; his boss, yuppie lawyer Miller Bates (Adam Goldberg), joins remotely from his high-rise office. The game's creepy graphics and gory action remind October of the local bogey tale her grandma used to tell about a 17th-century countess who lived on nearby Garouche Plantation, and Miller is the first to fall, stabbed by the game's red-clad countess (Maria Kalinina) with a pair of oversize shears. Hutch arrives at the office the next day to find the place crawling with police and thick with weeping coworkers: Miller has been murdered, apparently with a pair of heavy scissors. Any thought that Miller's death might be coincidental is dispelled after Finn's bizarre and bloody death, so the survivors band together to figure out the game's secret and stop its gory depredations. Cowriters William Brent Bell (who also directed) and Matthew Peterman, both avid gamers, take a potentially interesting premise and don't do much with it. But the cast is attractive and competent, the Stay Alive video graphics are genuinely handsome, and the New Orleans locations positively ooze Spanish-moss-draped atmosphere.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Horror buffs looking for a novel twist on genre formulas should look elsewhere, but this body-count potboiler about a sinister video game and the poor dopes who make the mistake of playing it is the movie equivalent of junk food: It's not good, but it's pr… (more)