Director: Toby Meakins
Writer: Simon Allen
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Iola Evans, Eddie Marsan, and Robert Englund
The latest Netflix horror is about a cursed text-based video game, that has real life consequences for its players. Iola Evans stars as Kayla, an aspiring coder who is stuck with a low paying cleaning job and looking after her mother after the death of her younger brother. She finds a game called Curs>r, at her friend Isaac’s (Asa Butterfield) place, with an unclaimed prize. Seeing it as a way out of her situation, Kayla starts playing the game and is forced to make terrifying decisions.
Curs>r is a text-based game where the player is given two options and must choose or die. Whatever choice the player makes has a real-life consequence and ends up hurting either the player or someone else. The game has somehow managed to influence the world around it, changing the place you’re playing it in or taking control of otherwise normal people. The film starts with another player, Mal (Eddie Marsan) choosing his son’s tongue to be cut out, without really understanding it. As the opening credits then start to roll, we get a story of how the tape is being spread about and multiplied. If you make a copy, it saves your family. Almost like the tape from The Ring.
Choose or Die is a love letter to the 1980s, from the text-based game to the music and posters of A Nightmare on Elm Street on the wall in Mal’s gaming room. It’s not too heavily based on nostalgia, which is refreshing, but there’s enough retro stuff in Isaac’s apartment to keep people paying attention to the background, with old games and consoles lining the shelves. There’s also a nice cameo from Robert Englund as a fictionalised version of himself. When Kayla calls to see if the prize is still available, she finds a recorded message from Englund, in an almost callback to 976-Evil, the film that Englund directed back in 1988.
While the film is a horror, it’s not particularly scary. Despite that, there’s a lot of cool moments, especially when the game starts to take control and more than enough eye-wincing moments, where people are throwing up tape or chewing glass. The film moves at a nice pace, and is really short, making this a really fun and enjoyable film. The plot does get very strange as it goes on, especially towards the end, but it’s always entertaining to watch.
Choose or Die is a nice throwback film to text adventures of the past. It’s not very scary, but it’s still entertaining.
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