Choose or Die movie review
The most recent Netflix Original horror film, “Choose or Die,” features a fantastically weird premise that, throughout, is reminiscent of genre films from the ’80s and ’90s. I was excited because I grew up in that time period and I admired the filmmakers who looked at developing technology and wondered what nightmares they could create. That emotion vanished quickly.
Naturally, Wes Craven’s great “A Nightmare on Elm Street” serves as the primary inspiration for this, and not just because Robert Englund, who plays Freddy, lends his voice in the opening scene and because the poster for it is on the wall. However, it also brings to mind a time when “terrifying technology” horror films like “Ghost in the Machine,” “Shocker,” “Brainscan,” or “Dreamscape” were popular. The issue is that this kind of surreal horror necessitates a lot of visual flair, which director Toby Meakins simply lacks in this film. “Choose or Die” needed a Craven or a Cronenberg, masters of the visual arts who could take an idea this obviously absurd and run with it imaginatively, making their visions feel almost primal. “Choose or Die” repeatedly falls short of the truly hallucinogenic promise of its premise, at least up until its insane final act. Without that, it’s essentially a forgettable decision.
Iola Evans portrays Kayla, a college student with debt issues and a problematic mother living on the verge of affluence. Isaac (Asa Butterfield), a programmer who isn’t precisely a romantic lead but certainly likes Kayla enough to model a character after her in his new game, is her best friend. However, once Kayla discovers a game from the 1980s called “Curs>r,” which was also once a better name for this movie, there is no time for romantic relationships. “Curs>r” is a vintage Infocom-style text game, one of the first PC games that required players to enter text to advance the plot. “Choose the chalice up? Are you sure?” Those sorts of things.
The video game “Choose or Die” is connected to the entertaining subculture of individuals who look for misplaced video games when Kayla learns that it includes a monetary prize that was never claimed. This one is a little unique, though. Every level usually results in bloodshed and a screen that repeatedly says “CHOOSE OR DIE,” and it adapts itself according on what’s happening in the room with Kayla. Say Kayla completes the first level at a diner, and the scene that follows features a helpless waitress eating shards of glass. It’s not quite “Tetris,” though.
Similar to how Freddy Krueger did in the “Nightmare” movies, “Curs>r” shatters reality, frequently sending Kayla to other locations or endangering people nearby. However, the dread experienced here lacks any meaningful organisation. Freddy could penetrate your dreams, which made him terrifying. It’s understandable. Everyone has nightmares. Too often, “Choose or Die” seems to be making it up as it goes. It’s the distinction between experiencing a nightmare firsthand and learning about someone person’s. In order to draw you in, a movie like “Choose or Die” must either entirely deviate from reality with its surreal graphics or establish some ground rules that both spectators and protagonists must abide by. Meakins and author Simon Allen struggle to make a choice, which results in a lackadaisical and uninspired movie.
The issue might have been budget-related in some way. A lot of the action is hidden by darkness and dry ice, and a lot of the violence takes place off-screen; nonetheless, as I mentioned earlier, a stronger visual eye would have concealed lack of finances more than anything else. Up until the final act, when things finally turn truly crazy in an engaging way, the movie is oddly boring (MVP Eddie Marsan, of course). At least Liam Howlett of Prodigy provided a memorable score for the film, which also helps to set it in the 1980s’ techno-heavy horror era. But it would be better if you just decided to watch “Videodrome” once more.