Monday, August 2, 2021

You Remine Me of the Babe


I've never been a stickler for historical accuracy in a film. In fact, when I see the words "based on a true story" anywhere NEAR the horror genre, I usually make a mental note to skip that flick, because if you're trying to purport that your most likely supernatural story really happened, then you can only go so far with the narrative. If a bunch of hot teenagers got lost in a forest and killed off one by one by a band of magical turtle/tiger hybrids, we would have heard about it, no?

Note to self: get on that script about the backwoods turtle/tiger people.

Anyway, Stay Out Stay Alive, the directorial debut of veteran digital FX artist Dean Yurke, opens with some very serious Times New Roman font telling us that we are about to watch a story based on true events, only for the closing credits to include the standard disclaimer:


Quick Plot: Five attractive early twentysomethings bound by their good looks (seriously, aside from a sister connection, these people should not be friends) head to Owani mine country for a weekend of camping fun. History buff Amy is eager to explore the caves and willing to take kooky forest ranger Barbara Crampton up on her offer of a tour, but the rest of her pretty terrible pals would rather just roast marshmallows and have sleeping bag sex. Well, everyone except single Donna, who decides to take a midnight stroll and ends up buried in an off-map mine.

With her foot pinned under debris, Donna's weekend plans are pretty limited. Pals Reese and Kyle climb down to help only to discover that they've landed right in the middle of a literal goldmine.

The kids get to work on gathering all the riches they can find, figuring they can fill their money bags then call in help for Donna without anyone knowing they stole the gold. Seems like a good plan, save for the Owani curse fairly put upon the future generations of spoiled Americans.

What's neat about Stay Out Stay Alive (obviously not the title) is that despite Yurke's background in digital FX, this is not a movie that relies on cheap CGI to commit to its genre. Instead, the horror comes from the tried and true greed-turning-man-against-itself, as the characters, in varying levels, find themselves becoming the real vessels of terror. Considering the haunting in question is the rightfully angry spirits of indigenous people, it's incredibly fitting that we don't need a monster miner tearing our loose friendships apart.

The film also looks quite good: how much of the set design was practical and how much was rendered is impressively not obvious, and the claustrophobic trappings of a mine are felt when needed.

There was something about Stay Out Stay Alive that just never fully clicked in terms of making me feel much, but in terms of its filmmaking, this is a sharp low budget entry worth some 85 spare minutes. 

High Points
When a writer/director comes from a technical background, you're not expecting much in terms of character building, but much credit to Yurke for investing so much specificity in his cast. This isn't the most interesting batch of pretty little victims we've ever had in a low budget horror movie, but Stay Out Stay Alive is surprisingly invested in making sure their five different personalities (along with their fatal flaws and insecurities) are made very clear early on, ensuring the audience understands their decisions, no matter how dumb they may be

Low Points
Considering it didn't especially do much for the finale, a third act revelation regarding a character's secret felt incredibly unnecessary and lazy, particularly when you're a female horror fan tired of watching females in horror fighting over terrible men

Lessons Learned
The best way to establish a character as being smart is to keep having her say "thesis!"

40 year old stepdads love Volvos

Does it really have to be said? Always, no matter what your instincts tell you, heed the advice of Barbara Crampton

I wasn't expecting much from a title I'd never heard of streaming on Amazon Prime, but Stay Out Stay Alive is a solid B-movie that manages to tell a familiar story with a few surprises. It won't necessarily scare you, but there's a lot to enjoy, and I look forward to seeing more original work from Dean Yurke.


  1. On the 'based on a true story' thing, I absolutely agree 99% of the time. However, The 4th Kind completely fooled me (I don't know how common planting fake articles was back in 2009 but I had sure never encountered it before, plus I'm dumb). I would have been scared by it either way but all the 'real' footage really took it the next level for me. But it's the kind of technique that really needs to be done well, or not at all, IMO. Sounds like it was pretty pointless for this flick. What an abysmal name, btw. Wowee.

    1. Exactly! If it's not going to work 100%, it's going to fail miserably. I actually never saw The 4th Kind but remember the Milla commercials that seemed like a super odd way to market a movie. I might give it a go one of these days.

  2. I hate recommending things that seem to polarize people but personally I loved The 4th Kind so I say hit it. I have some pals who feel the same way but I also know lots of people who think it was really fucking dumb so keep that in mind!