It’s a dark and slippery slope for five friends who stumble upon a gold mine in the middle of the woods in Stay Out Stay Alive, a nimble pseudo-slasher film that blends the worst parts of human nature with a good, old-fashioned Native American curse.
Everything kicks off like you might expect, with five friends headed into a nondescript patch of woods for a weekend getaway. When fifth wheel Donna wanders off to explore, she finds herself pinned under a boulder in a long-lost mine home to both a boatload of gold ore and a pissed-off Native American ghost.
You may not be entirely surprised by how things turn out. The moment a telltale glow tints the face of alpha male Reese a ghostly yellow, for example, you know you’re watching a slow-motion car crash in action. For the most part, though, that’s just fine, because Stay Out Stay Alive knows how to make the most of familiar territory. All of the characters stuck in the muck have baggage or a secret that heightens the drama and keeps each person realistically invested in the scheme, even as it becomes clear that their greed outweighs their good sense.
Director Dean Yurke’s background as a digital artist for ILM also comes in very handy. From a technical standpoint, Stay Out Stay Alive is tremendous. The editing is solid. The special effects are used to great effect. The cinematography switches adroitly between the rapidly enclosing space of the mine and the labyrinthine woods above. Though just Yurke’s first feature, Stay Out Stay Alive is helmed with precision and restraint throughout. That self-control makes it all the more rewarding when things go bat shit insane in the film’s final moments.
Though Stay Out Stay Alive doesn’t have much to say about Native American subjugation beyond, “It’s bad,” it’s still fantastic fun watching a malevolent entity use old school gold lust to dismantle a bunch of semi-privileged suburbanites.
Stay Out Stay Alive does a wonderful job getting its audience to feel the weight of the dirt piling up figuratively and literally around the cast. Even more impressive, the film keeps enticing us to follow the imploding, little group to see just how deep the hole truly goes.
Stay Out Stay Alive is currently lurking on your favorite digital service.