Horror and action movies have so thoroughly integrated the ethos and style of video games that the whole idea of a "video-game movie" seems a little redundant. Honestly, is anyone other than Uwe Boll and his cadre of masochistic "fans" excited about the strange spiritual communion currently taking place between increasingly cinematic video games and increasingly video-game-esque movies?


That merging hits another low with Stay Alive, a laughable would-be fright-fest that's as strikingly inept as a Boll movie, but nowhere near as much guilty fun. A newfangled horror movie that only feels like an adaptation of a crappy third-person shooter, Stay Alive revolves around a mysterious video game seemingly responsible for the bloody deaths of a group of joystick-wiggling chums. Could the deaths and the game have something to do with a sadistic, old-timey female ghost matron and a squadron of ghost-girls who look like they just got off tour with the J-Horror All Stars? Yes, Stay Alive is the kind of movie where photogenic youths spend a great deal of time trying to figure out the insanely convoluted rules dictating their gruesome, predetermined deaths. And when those statutes prove unfeasible, the screenwriters simply change the rules. After all, it's their universe, isn't it?

Teen fodder like this isn't known for sophistication or storytelling depth, but the filmmakers seem to take the film's video-game theme as permission to eschew even the horror genre's exceedingly lenient minimums for characterization. The tormented mind of the film's bland protagonist is conveyed almost exclusively through split-second flashbacks to a fiery Oedipal childhood trauma, and the psychology gets less sophisticated from there. When the door is left open for a sequel, it feels less like a sly, winking come-on than a threat from deluded filmmakers foolishly overplaying their hand.