Stay Out Stay Alive begins with two of the most ominous plot devices in horror. Ominous in all the wrong ways that is. The Native American curse and the words “Based on actual events”. In this case, though the curse is an actual one laid by Chief Tenaya in 1851. As to whether the rest of the film is actually based on actual events, that’s another matter.
Five hikers head off into the woods. Bridget (Brie Mattson, D-Railed) and her overly alpha jock boyfriend, Reese (Brandon Wardle, Bumblebee). Grad student Amy (Christina July Kim) and her boyfriend Kyle (William Romano-Pugh). And recently dumped Donna (Sage Mears, 6 Guns) who’s feeling very much out of place.
Reaching the park they stop in at the ranger station and encounter Ranger Susanna (Barbara Crampton, Beyond The Gates, Dead Night) who warns them against going into any of the abandoned gold mines on the park grounds. She also seriously creeps them out.
That night, Donna decides to talk a walk in the woods rather than watch her friends make out. She promptly falls into one of the abandoned mines, one that’s not on the map. Her friends find her, and they also find something else, gold. Enough to make them rich. But as the amount they find grows so does greed and gold fever. Leading to inevitable and deadly consequences.
Stay Out Stay Alive is the first film as a writer and director for Dean Yurke. However, he has a long career as a visual effects artist, most of it with Industrial Light and Magic. It’s not surprising that this is a very good looking film. It is surprising though how few effects there are in it.
The same can be said for the plot. Despite the curse, Stay Out Stay Alive plays out in very plausible terms, It feels more like Mother Lode than Curse of the Forty-Niner. The curse is a subtle one, exploiting the greed that’s already there. Getting them to ignore the signs that others have met a bad end in this mine. Exploiting their paranoia and making them turn on each other as the stakes rise. Or maybe it isn’t the curse at all, just human nature at its worst.
That may be the film’s greatest strength. Whether you believe in the curse or not Stay Out Stay Alive has a plot that works. There’s enough hints given that the curse felt real to me. But you could watch this as a skeptic, put it all down to greed and desperation and it would still make sense.
Either way Stay Out Stay Alive is a solid film. There’s not much in the way of jump scares, it leans more on atmosphere and suspense. And it does build a lot of that, especially in the final act.
Stay Out Stay Alive is available via Gravitas Ventures. You can get more information on its website and Facebook page.