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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Choose or Die movie review: Netflix’s derivative horror film falls short of expectations, you’ll wish for ‘game over’ soon

Choose or Die movie review: In the final stretch, for a few minutes or so, Asa Butterfield and Iola Evans’s Netflix horror movie does become what it promised. But it is too little, too late.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi |
Updated: April 17, 2022 9:20:25 am
Choose or Die movie review, Choose or Die review, Choose or Die movie review, Choose or DieChoose or Die movie review: Netflix horror film ends up disappointing the viewer.

Choose or Die movie director: Toby Meakins
Choose or Die movie cast: Asa Butterfield, Iola Evans, Eddie Marsan, and Robert Englund
Choose or Die movie rating: 2 stars

Video-games are fun, but various studies have linked them to violence in kids for decades. One of the reasons is the hyper-realistic graphics in games like Mortal Kombat that show gore and innards in startlingly high-definition detail. This was not an issue for old-timey choose your own adventure text–based games that fascinated young minds in the 1980s and the 1990s.

The story though is different with CURS>R, an interactive fiction game in Netflix’s latest horror movie Choose or Die. It appears to have deeply unpleasant real-world repercussions. The film’s exciting, spooky opening has a man called Hal (Eddie Marsan), a collector of computer games, firing up a copy of CURS>R. All goes well until the game demands he choose from his son losing his tongue and his wife losing her ears. Choose or Die, it insists.

And yes, the gory thing happens. After this, however, the movie goes downhill. Our heroine is Kayla (newcomer Iola Evans), a college student who works as a janitor to supplement her meagre income and support her drug-addict mother who is still not over her son’s tragic death years ago.

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Kayla’s friend Isaac (Sex Education’s Asa Butterfield) has a crush on her and teaches her code in exchange for old gadgets and tech doodah that he loves. Coming across CURS>R, Kayla is told by the game that she can win $125,000 if she beats the game, which will be a lot of help to her and her family.

But is she playing the game or the game is playing her? As the game is wont to, it begins to interfere with reality. While playing in a cafe, she witnesses a waitress eating broken glass until she dies, while repeatedly saying she is unable to stop. Layla looks horrified, an expression one will tire of before the end.

Choose or Die wears its influences on its sleeves. That the film is derivative to the point of feeling like a mish-mash of other, better horror movies is forgivable. But the undoing of the movie is that every time it looks like the script is finally fulfilling on its sinister promise, the film throws huge leaps of logic at you. And the poor, one-note characterisation makes sure one is never fully invested in the story and the protagonists, and is just tagging along for the adventure until the blessed end comes.

The frustrating thing is the good bits of the film get lost in the whirlwind of exposition and muddled tone. The cool synth-pop and electronic soundtrack and wacky visuals impress but they are in service to the film that cannot decide what it wishes to be: a full-blown serious social horror film or a campy flick about a creepy text-based game.

In the final stretch, for a few minutes or so, Choose or Die does become what it promised. But it is too little, too late.

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