Let's start with the premise of the movie. A group of attractive 20-something gamers find this new, underground video game called "Stay Alive" where the objective is the title. Despite the fact that the main character's friend died shortly after playing it, the gamers decide to give it a go. They find the effects creepy and fulfilling, but the fun ends there when one of their group, the main character's boss, dies in exactly the same way as his avatar in the game. It just escalates from there. Now, I'm a big fan of games with an interesting plot, so if this were a game, I would totally play it.
A lot of people were complaining about the CG effects. I liked them. It was supposed to look like a video game. I realize the normal route was to have these characters look real when they step off the computer screen, but I thought it looked so much cooler when it seemed like the game itself was killing you. Some of it seemed far too reminiscent of Japanese horror, but considering that's the trend these days, I let it go. Overall, I loved the fact that the demon children and the crazy Countess looked exactly like the game until the very end.
The characters themselves were fun. You had the goth chick, but what I liked about her was that she wasn't the stereotypical "I'm creepy and dark and depressed" chick that always seems to grace these movies. Then there was her brother, whom I was alternating between laughing at and wanting to hit. The main character, Hutch, I believe, was cute enough that I didn't really care whether or not he was cool. Swink, played by Frankie Muniz, was utterly adorable. The only one that I didn't get was the blonde, Abigail. Why the hell was she there? To create suspense, to be another love interest for Hutch? I really wanted her to be evil. That would have made so much sense in the long run. I mean, she shows up at Loomis' funeral and suddenly becomes buddies with Hutch and then later his new girlfriend after the goth chick dies. That entire relationship I could have done without. I would have absolutely LOVED it if she turned out to be some psycho obsessed with the game or something. But, whatever. She was decent, too.
The only part of the movie that I didn't like, which always drives me nuts, is the fact that they never mention why and how the game was created. The company, apparently, was the plantation itself, but who made it? The Countess? That doesn't make sense to me. I get the idea of mixing an old ghost story with today's technology. I find that fascinating. But how does a Civil War-era ghost come up with the idea of making a video game to further her evil purpose and then manage to go through with it? Also, how did she manage to distribute it after she was supposedly destroyed? If there is one thing that can tie a movie together for me, it's a good backstory.
Other than that, I found the movie enjoyable and I would definitely watch it again when it comes on TV. If you're looking for hardcore horror, look elsewhere. But if you want some fun with a great ghost story, then definitely watch this. If anything, you can have fun with rooting for who dies next.