Netflix’s Choose or Die plays out like Saw meets Oregon Trail meets Jumanji, except the computer-levels playing out in real life have higher psychological stakes for the player than giant mosquitos or swarms of monkeys.
Choose or Die, a Netflix Film, stars Iola Evans from The100 as Kayla, Asa Butterfield (most recently know for playing Otis in Sex Education) as Isaac and Robert Englund (aka Freddy Krueger) as himself – but don’t be fooled, it’s in voice only. Choose or Die was directed by Toby Meakins in his first full-length (albeit relatively short) movie, with a run time of one hour and twenty-four minutes. The film score is composed by The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett in his first foray in to the film genre. The soundtrack is a mash-up of 80s nostalgia and current tunes, mixing alternative, rap, and R&B styles to create an interesting combination with no consistent choice of genre.
Choose or Die follows aspiring coder Kayla as she finds a 1980’s computer game in her wannabe tech company CEO friend Isaac’s latest haul of tech junk that she normally helps him refurbish. When they call the number on the game, Robert Englund’s voice (Isaac is expectedly excited, but Kayla’s response is “who?”) tells them there is a $125,000 prize for the winner who completes THE GAME. Being a broke college drop-out solely responsible for her strung-out mother and staving off eviction by cleaning the offices of Kismet Corporation (unidentified conglomerate of some kind with an ironic name) overnight, Kayla decides to go for it, arranging to meet Isaac at a diner at 1:30am to play the game together. There is never an explanation of why he doesn’t show. This sets Kayla on a race against time to beat or disable the game, CURS>R, which has terrifying and bloody consequences for those around her, but not to her directly so long as she makes a choice every time she’s confronted with “Choose or Die?”
Choose or Die unfortunately proves that an interesting premise and good actors do not necessarily make for a strong film.
The small cast and short run time are noticeable in the development of plot. Choose or Die starts off strong – the pre-credits scene of an 80’s nostalgia collector playing CURS>R and the devastating effects on his family – is sufficiently creepy and bloody, and sets up a great little mystery. Unfortunately, after Kayla’s first two levels are complete, things start to go downhill. The plot becomes muddled with tech jargon involving analogue phones and early internet aficionados figuring out how to cheat the system. The writers could have and should have taken more time with the mid-card matches and game origin explanation. The Final Battle of hero vs. villain (because what is any video game without one) is actually a bloody good time, although I would have liked some more origin story for the villain here. The ending is cliché, and I would have liked to see how the superhero took on the REAL Big Bad in this cyber-horror show finale.
Ultimately, if you have eighty-four minutes to spare and a penchant for feeling the green glow of primitive computer games against your face, this isn’t a bad movie to watch. Isaac and Kayla manage to create sympathetic characters and a blossoming romance in a short amount of time; And the director, Toby Meakins, has great things ahead of him if he can do so much with so little. I imagine given a script with a thoroughly developed plot and a bit more originality and focus (I mean there is a nod to The Matrix which is decidedly NOT the 80’s genre), he could make a name for himself in this genre, as the ambience is quite creepy, even if the scenes play out disappointingly. For a writer (Simon Allen) who claims to be 80’s obsessed, there was not enough 80’s gratification in the end. In this horror fan and 80’s girl’s opinion, the movie is a solid 3/5 and not an entire waste of 84 minutes.
Have you watched Choose or Die yet? What did you think? Sound off in the comments!