Stay Out Stay Alive (Portland Horror Film Festival): There’s Doom in Them Thar Hills!

A group of young hikers finds that the opportunity for sudden wealth leads them down dangerous paths in the horror outing Stay Out Stay Alive. Greed motivates some members of the party, but the lust for riches proves to be no match for supernatural forces in the forest in this engrossing thriller.

Amy (Christina July Kim) needs to camp out in the forests of Yosemite, California, to work on a research project. Although her boyfriend Kyle (William Romano-Pugh) is reluctant to come along, her friends Donna (Sage Mears) and Bridget (Brie Mattson), along with Bridget’s boyfriend Reese (Brandon Wardle), are more than happy to vacation in the great outdoors. Donna falls into a 19th century goldmine and has her leg pinned under a heavy rock when an earthquake strikes, but the party members soon begin weighing immediate rescue efforts against the possibility of becoming suddenly rich beyond their dreams if they illegally mine gold that they discover. As the friends clash over moral decisions, the lust for greed begins to change some of their personalities, and vengeful spirits from the mine’s early days make their presence known, as well.

Equal parts psychological thriller and supernatural shocker, Stay Out Stay Alive does a fine job of showing the slowly fracturing relationships within the group, as Amy tries to convince her friends to do the right thing, leave the mine as it was, and get Donna to a hospital, while Reese grows ever more unhinged, unpredictable, and dangerous. The suspense picks up when Ranger Susanna (Barbara Crampton) comes to check on the group, and winds up accidentally falling into the mine. The dramatic build-up leads into a third act where the horror elements really ramp up.  

Writer/director/producer Dean Yurke has crafted a nifty, taut feature rich in atmosphere, from the beautiful forest landscapes to the claustrophobic mine, and with a terrific storm sequence in the third act. Cinematographer Bill Holshevnikoff captures these settings beautifully, with the electrifying storm action being one of many highlights. Lawson Rollins provides a truly pulse-pounding score.

Yurke invests the story with a respect for nature and especially the Native Americans who lost their lives during the California Gold Rush, and uses further real-life inspiration regarding the approximately 500,000 abandoned mines that exist in the United States. His passion for these topics truly comes through, without being heavy handed.

Stay Out Stay Alive is fine, suspenseful scare fare, with rousing set pieces, a pervading sense of doom, masterly direction, and super performances from its ensemble cast. It’s definitely one to keep an eye out for as it begins its film festival run.

Stay Out Stay Alive had its world premiere at Portland Horror Film Festival in Portland, Oregon on June 5, 2019.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.