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Choose or Die 2022 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
A cursed game that forces one to make deadly choices is a promising premise for a horror franchise that could tap into the cultural zeitgeist like The Ring and reach the same popularity levels as Final Destination. Alas, Choose or Die — Toby Meakins’ feature debut from a screenplay he co-wrote with Simon Allen and Matthew James Wilkinson — falls short of expectations.
Choose or Die follows a young coder, Kayla (Iola Evans), who starts up a lost ’80s choose-your-own-adventure horror game, unleashing a curse that impacts her reality. The film is evil Jumanji for those familiar with the newest films starring Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan. Kayla is struggling to make ends meet, so the chance to win unclaimed reward money from an old relic of a video game becomes too enticing to give up. However, when she is forced to watch a waitress eat glass, she quickly realizes that she is in the clutches of evil that can alter reality.
Netflix’s latest horror venture falls apart in almost every respect despite the premise brimming with possibilities. There is an attempt to have the horror film, and the reality it is set in, stand out enough to encourage viewers to continue being transported into the story. Choose or Die is the type of horror that has a logic-defying reality found in the aforementioned Final Destination films, the Saw franchise, and the many copycat horror films that follow a group of people haunted by something that requires smarts and luck to escape. Sadly, like so many before it, Choose or Die forgets to be a movie that can stand on its own and is rather consumed by the possibility of being a franchise.
The cast, as good as they may be in other projects, are agonizingly saddled with boring and insufficient characters. This is made worse by the very British cast putting on bland American accents. Choose or Die attempts to have viewers sympathize with the characters and bends over backwards to do so, even though they are hollow shells. Kayla has the makings of being an iconic scream queen/final girl, but the film overstates her value by being overwhelmingly derivative and, frankly, overly grotesque for no reason. The characters don’t matter here and neither does the story.
Choose or Die assumes that gore and violence are the only things that capture one’s attention. There is a lack of suspense, drive, and intrigue to have the audience engaged in between the moments of horror. The reason films like Final Destination, The Ring, Unfriended, and Pulse are either revered or passable — there is an element of mystery. The protagonists are striving to end their torture and, for that to be engaging, the central villain or evil presence needs to be wrapped up in an interesting tale. Choose or Die is too muddled in that regard and feels so much like an amalgamation of films that it loses the thread one too many times. It also does not help that we are reminded of better horror with the presence of Nightmare on Elm Street’s Robert Englund.
Choose or Die relies too much on the premise being interesting, but the execution is boring. All the questions and the answers feel secondary to the shock and horror of the violence the game inflicts. Competent filmmaking can hardly be appreciated when the film neglects the fundamentals of its narrative. On a technical level, the film is fine. But without a substantive story, layered or interesting characters, and an internal logic that works, there is not much to engage with. What Choose or Die is lacking is made up for with a considerably short runtime and decent pacing, which are enough to recommend the movie.
In the end, though, the film can’t overcome the sense of silliness it so desperately tries to evade. There are remnants of a good horror movie here, but it is bogged down by a dreariness that stifles any creativity or individualism this story could possess. Those who may be new to the genre or merely want to disengage for a little bit will find merit in Choose or Die. But for bona fide horror fans, the derivativeness and the flatness of the execution is too much to tolerate. There is a clear choice to be made here for Netflix audiences, and that is to not hit play.