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Since the entirety of October is officially Halloween this year (shut up, you!), we at Psycho Drive-In have decided to attempt to fill the month with thirty-one recommendations for horror-related movies, comics, books, TV shows, toys, games, and everything in-between. It’s gonna be a grab-bag of goodies we feel you should be exposed to, whether you like it or not! But don’t expect your standard suggestions for Halloween fun, we’re digging into some stuff that we love in the hopes that you might make this October a little bit weirder than usual.

Weirder in a good way. Not like what’s going on outside in the hellscape of 2020.

I am not sure how I missed it, but I have no memory of the film Stay Alive (2006) being released! Since it flew completely under my radar, I was not expecting much. Being listed as “Disney’s only slasher film,” my interest in the film was definitely piqued. Before you go impressing your friends with that bit of trivia, it actually was released by the now defunct Hollywood Pictures, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studio, but I digress…

The poster for the film looked like Jigsaw took up video games. I had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised and it was definitely worth a second look. After playing a bootlegged video game, Loomis Crowley (Milo Ventimiglia), his roommate Rex (Billy Slaughter), and Rex’s girlfriend, Sarah (Nicole Oppermann), are found dead. At Loomis’ funeral, his friend, Hutch (Jon Foster), meets Abigail (Samaire Armstrong), a friend of Sarah’s.

Hutch has received a few of his best friend’s possessions, including his copy of the bootlegged video game, Stay Alive. Hutch, Abigail, and a small group of his gamer friends decide to play the game. As each player’s game avatar dies, the player dies in real life in a similar manner.

My only disappointment is that the game within the movie is not a real game! It starts out with requiring the players to recite “The Prayer of Elizabeth” which is a request for “all who resist” to perish so that their blood can keep the Countess Elizabeth Bathory young. The Countess Bathory was a real life Hungarian sadistic murderess who was accused of torturing, killing, and eating hundreds of girls and young women from 1590 to 1610. The precise number of victims and reasoning behind her crimes remain a mystery except for pure evil. Although it has not been substantiated, it is rumored that she bathed in the blood of her young victims as some sort of Fountain of Youth, a tale that sounds like a Ryan Murphy character.

The movie has changed Countess Bathory from Hungarian to living on a plantation in New Orleans where she cannot look at her aging face in mirrors and kills virgins to stay young. Her plantation is also the headquarters for the gaming company that created Stay Alive and has been recreated in the game. Hutch and Abigail must visit the plantation while Hutch’s friend, Swink (Frankie Muniz) plays the game. Not only has Countess Bathory been resurrected through the game, but she is now cheating and no longer playing by the rules.

The movie does have some cheesiness that exists in most horror movies and is one of the reasons I love the genre, but it is a pretty solid chapter in video game horror movies. A lot of the screen time exists in the game and the video game effects had aged pretty well. The concept of a video game character sneaking into the real world is a fear that I had back when I played the A Nightmare on Elm Street NES game. The fact that a real serial killer is used as the basis of the antagonist of the movie gives it a little more credence than if it were just another slasher character.

I do feel the fact that a game was not released alongside the movie is a major missed opportunity. The graphics and story were there. My only hope is that it develops a cult following and some developers cash in. Just please, no prequels or sequels to this movie. It is a one and done. Do not push the luck of a good thing.

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