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Film / Stay Alive

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If you die in the game, you die for real.

Stay Alive is a horror film written by William Brent Bell, who also directed, and Matthew Peterman. This film was produced by McG, co-produced by Hollywood Pictures and released on March 24, 2006, in the United States.

The movie centers on an online survival horror video game called Stay Alive, based on the myth of a figure called the Blood Countess, who was buried alive in the tower of her real estate in the Geronge Plantation. There's a good reason why this game is still in beta, though: the people who play it have a nasty habit of dying.

A group of twenty-somethings find themselves in possession of this particular video game after the brutal death of their friend, and soon discover that they are being murdered in the same way as their characters died in the game. Now they must race against time to defeat the spirit of the countess in order to escape the game.


Stay Alive contains examples of:

  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: What's with that Gamestop clerk? There's a scene where the cop goes to a Gamestop for information and the clerk tries to sell him a First Person Shooter as if it were heroin. It's like they just lifted a drug dealer interrogation scene from another movie and replaced all instances of "crack" with "game." He's even twitchy and neurotic, like he's been sampling his own stuff.
  • Artistic License – History: Elizabeth Báthory did exist in history, but she was Hungarian. She was infamously accused of having murdered young girls and bathed in their blood to keep herself youthful. In the film, her In-Universe story is set in New Orleans and her infamy is on a much different scale. Alternately, it might be a case of the writer's using Madame Delphine LaLaurie and giving her a more recognizable name.
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  • Asshole Victim: Detective King. He dies not long after he plays the game and is immediately killed in the game.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever
  • Awesome Mc Coolname / Aerith and Bob: Most of the main cast have extremely improbable first names, ranging from the merely obscure (Phineas), things that really should be last names (Loomis, Miller, Hutch), to things that aren't names at all (October), to the simply stupid (Swink). Only Abigail is spared.
  • Berserk Button: In line with the myths about Elizabeth Báthory, she does not like seeing her reflection (as it is a stark reminder of her aging body and looks,) and thus smashes every mirror and glass surface she comes across. Hutch is able to exploit this by using his laptop's more durable reflective metal backing in the end, riling her up and distracting her long enough to set her on fire.
  • Big Bad: Elizabeth Báthory is the spirit who possesses the videogame.
  • The Big Easy: Set in New Orleans, Louisiana. The game (and the climax of the movie) take place at a Southern Gothic crumbling plantation house and the above-ground cemetery behind it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: For the main cast: Hutch, Abigail, and Swink are able to defeat Elizabeth Báthory and escape from Stay Alive's curse, but not without heavy losses. A total of eight people end up dead, including their friends, one of the cops who was only looking into the case, as well as the game's creator, who just wanted to make a terrifying game featured around the object of his obsession.
  • Blood Bath: The vengeful spirit of Elizabeth Báthory suspends Abigail over an empty bathtub caked in dried blood and threatens to have her bled into the tub, heavily suggesting this trope, but Hutch saves Abigail before any bloodletting could occur.
  • B-Movie: The movie is typical of the genre; a cursed video game picking off a group of friends one by one based on how their character died.
  • Cat Scare: Swink is introduced by one. It's genuinely jarring to see Frankie Muniz suddenly leap into frame, Scare Chord and all.
  • Chekhov's Gun: While everyone's playing the game, Phinneas discovers that while the Blood Countess can break the glass in players' mirrors, the mirrors can still be used by turning them around, as it turns out the the frames were made from reflective metal. In the final confrontation against Elizabeth Báthory, Hutch uses the reflective metal on the back of his laptop to show Elizabeth her reflection, causing her to fly into a rage and try to break it like all the other glass surfaces she has broken throughout the movie. This gives him the opening he needs to set the room on fire.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The Downer Ending described below. Everything in the movie presents the heroes' goals as enough to stop Bathory, but, for some reason, they aren't.
  • Disney Death: Swink, who the game shows as dead but actually survived by falling into a rose bush.
  • Downer Ending / The End... Or Is It?: For the world at large: In spite of Hutch and co's struggles, Stay Alive has been released in stores, having apparently finished its beta testing and reached its release date by the end of the movie. As the GameStop clerk from earlier eagerly heads home with his copy, numerous voices are reciting the opening chant in unison as the game's opening plays, ending on a foreboding shot of Elizabeth, implying that the movie's events are going to happen all over again for all of these players.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The game definitely features this.
  • Fictional Video Game: The eponymous game.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Happens to October, who's for bonus points is actually Hutch's original love interest. Literally less than half a day after the brutal death of his girlfriend, Hutch seemingly forgets all about her and hooks up with Abigail instead.
  • Fortune Teller: Hutch and Abigail see one who tells them the tale of Elisabeth Bathory.
  • The Game Plays You: If someone just leaves the game...
  • Gamer Chick: October.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The creator of Stay Alive wanted to make a horror game unlike any other, using his obsession with Elizabeth Bathory and her life for inspiration. It ends up being so authentic that it game ends up calling her vengeful spirit back from the grave to scare and murder all the players as she pleases.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: This movie is rated PG-13. One of the most obvious was the second victim.
  • Historical Domain Superperson: The film centers on the titular fictional survival horror game that stars Elizabeth Báthory whose spirit possesses the game. She kills the players in real life the same way their characters did in the game.
  • Hollywood Game Design: The game was apparently made by one guy drawing creepy pictures in a notebook. Over the course of the movie we see almost his entire house and he doesn't even have a computer.
  • Ivy League for Everyone
  • Killer Game Master: Elizabeth starts cheating when the players try not to play the game, playing it herself while the characters of the victims move in tandem with their real selves. Swink even calls it out as cheating when she summons a carriage in the real world to murder him before he's actually lost the game.
  • Kill It with Fire: Elizabeth Bathory is finally put down when Hutch lights her on fire.
  • Kryptonite Factor: The ghostly haunts of the video game can be repelled by using a single rose (though it gets used up in doing so). This extends to the real world as well, and Swink crashing into a thicket of them right as Elizabeth Bathory is about to murder him ends up saving his life. Elizabeth herself hates her reflection and will smash any mirror to avoid seeing it, but can't break non-glass reflective surfaces like silver or the chrome case of a laptop.
  • Metafictional Title: Stay Alive is the name of The Most Dangerous Video Game.
  • The Most Dangerous Video Game meets The Game Come to Life.
  • Pac Man Fever: The movie gets certain details close enough to right that it serves only to piss off the few audience members that actually know what they're talking about. Most of the game, for example, seems to be cutscenes, with very little that we see looking like someone is actually playing.
  • Police Are Useless: The police investigation turns up nothing and then vanishes from the plot. See What Happened to the Mouse? below.
  • Product Placement: The Alienware logo on Hutch's gaming laptop is prominently featured, and ultimately ends up being used to defeat the villain.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Elizabeth Bathory really hates the sight of her reflection, and so she smashes every mirror and glass surface she comes across. She meets her match in the form of a reflective laptop case which can't be shattered.
  • Re-Cut: The Unrated Director's Cut has a lot more backstory about Elizabeth Bathory than the Theatrical Version.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The game creator's attic, filled with nothing but his design notes and concept art for Stay Alive, his collection of Elizabeth Bathory's life story that he uses as inspiration, and realistic scale models of some of the horror creature enemies used in the game itself. And also his corpse, as Abigail finds during her investigation.
  • Serial Killer: After Miller's death, Hutch starts to think someone like this is responsible and is using the game as their modus operandi, as everyone who has played Stay Alive ends up dead, each killed in the exact same way their player characters were slain. Of course, given the premise, he's right, But it isn't until after Phineus' death that he realizes that the game itself is the cause, rather than someone tracking their game progress.
  • Shear Menace: One of Elizabeth Bathory's favorite murder tools.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Phineus, who is the first in Hutch's group to be killed by Elizabeth Bathory.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Despite the things they got wrong above, some of their video game references are correct, which is because they hired CliffyB as their consultant.
  • Start to Corpse: The prologue shows Loomis (a young Milo Ventimiglia) playing the game and then getting hanged.
  • Stock Scream: Used when October is attacked.
  • Summoning Ritual: Somehow, possibly as a result of the game creator's obsession with Elizabeth Báthory, the opening is this: To start the game, players must recite a passage that turns out to have come from Elizabeth's diary, which ends up resurrecting her spirit for real, targeting them for death both in-game and in the real world.
  • Tagalong Kid: Swink seems to be younger than the rest of the cast
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: October has one called the "Malleus Demonium", which she translates as "Witch's Hammer." Presumably the writers were thinking of the Malleus Maleficarum, an actual witch-hunting text.
  • Totally Radical: A lot of the dialogue. Phinneas' observation that Abigail "has got body karate going on" stands out as a particularly memorably awkward line.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: During the prologue, Loomis walks in on his roommate having sex with a girl while wearing a hideous pig mask. This is treating as merely mildly embarrassing (for Loomis, not for the roommate or the girl).
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Inverted. The game is cruel to the players.
  • Wham Line:
    • Abigail's revelation that her father is not an architect and her mother doesn't teach first grade is treated as such, possibly implying Parental Abandonment of some kind since Abigail then admits that she basically lives out of her van. But nothing is explained as she doesn't elaborate further.
    • A bit more fitting is this line from Hutch when he realizes that Stay Alive continues playing and sets up their deaths regardless of whether it is paused or not.
      Hutch: They weren't playing the game... The game is playing itself!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Detective Thibodeau. After King's death, he and the rest of the cops arrive at the main characters' apartment, suspicious, and they sneak out a window. Thibodeau decides not to give chase and immediately gives up. This is the last we see of him.
  • Why Did It Have To Be Fire: Hutch has a deep fear of fire, due to seeing his father set the house on fire with all of them inside, all because he (wrongfully) suspected his wife of cheating on him.
  • Win to Exit: Once they realize that the game will continue to play itself when they're not around, the leads realize they will have to beat the game in order to be free. A variation in that they don't beat the game in the game, but by finding the ghost in real life and defeating her.


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