Think Jumanji with a body count and you'll have the measure of Stay Alive, a risible horror-thriller that transfers the Ring device of a deadly videotape to the geeky world of computer games. Why are the players of a prototype first person shooter meeting gruesome deaths identical to the ones they suffer online? According to whiz-kid Frankie Muniz, it's all down to "homicidal replication on a sociopathic level..." which makes as much sense as anything in William Brent Bell's dreary teen slasher.
Just as the clues to defeating The Ring's cursed rental lay within its grainy frames, so the secret to 'Stay Alive' is located in its grisly back story, which mirrors that of real-life 17th Century noblewoman Elizabeth Bathory. Also known as the Blood Countess, this legendary mass murderer, a purported inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, was last seen walled up inside her Hungarian castle. Here, though, she's emigrated to New Orleans, to take supernatural revenge on any joystick-twiddler foolish enough to invade her zombie-infested lair.
"A PAUCITY OF GORE"
Given the woeful stupidity of Bell's protagonists, who never learn from each other's mistakes and invariably meet violent ends as a consequence, you'll be rooting for the Countess all the way. Stuttering like a busted console, the film's lack of invention is only rivalled by a paucity of gore which will seem positively comical to gamers long since inured to cyberspace slaughter. As for Muniz, he's proving more annoying as a 20-year-old than he ever did as Agent Cody Banks or Malcolm in the Middle.
Stay Alive is released in UK cinemas on 28th July.