The only choice to make regarding Choose or Die is to choose not to watch this lazy, unintelligible bit of horror rehash.
New Netflix horror flick Choose or Die was originally entitled Curs>r, a very stupid and much more fitting moniker for a film that hearkens back to the halcyon days of the late ‘90s and early aughts, when unimaginative sludge like Dee Snider’s Strangeland and feardotcom clogged theater screens, preying on the public’s fear of the big, bad Internet and all the of diabolical horrors that lurked within it. In a rather surprising turn of events, Choose or Die is actually far more concerned with the ‘80s, as its modern-day characters rebuild 8-bit consoles and play video games that would appropriately be labeled today as “retro”; the whole thing is a real grab-bag, in other words, and that’s even before its characters inexplicably break out old-school Walkmans.
Curs>r is indeed the name of the game stumbled upon by our two protagonists, amateur game designers and coders Kayla (Iola Evans) and Isaac (Asa Butterfield). Their desire to play is fueled by a potential cash prize of $125,000, which this film posits would still be available even though the contest dates back nearly 40 years, which is par for the course regarding the level of intelligence on display here. Kayla is the typical sad-sack horror movie heroine who lives in poverty with her depressed mother and who is still trying to emotionally recover from the death of her little brother, over whose drowning she feels both crippling guilt and sole responsibility. Isaac, meanwhile, is hopelessly in love with Kayla and designs a game character that looks exactly like her, the ultimate gesture of true love in nerdcore. Yet neither of them banks on the sinister nature of Curs>r, a — wait for it — cursed game that has the ability to prey on its players’ fears while forcing them to engage in a series of challenges that tests their mettle by making them confront the titular conundrum, their choices having devastating, real-world consequences. In horror-movie terms, this means that it makes a lot of innocent bystanders do grotesque acts of self-harm, and if the player tries to stop them, the game emits an ear-piercing screech that only they can hear and which will ultimately kill them, because sure.
Unfortunately, director Toby Meakins and writer Simon Allen never go quite as extreme as necessary in these particular scenarios, either cutting away from the action or simply showing the end results, which is pretty unsatisfying given that this film has literally nothing else to offer, and is also the only reason the viewer is here in the first place. Instead, audiences are treated to yet another tired riff on The Ring, in which our main characters become amateur detectives and try to determine the origins of this curse in order to stop it from destroying their lives and those of their loved ones. As per usual, it’s all a bunch of gobbledygook that makes no sense and offers little in the way of entertainment, as exposition dumps are notoriously light on chills and suspense, which also describes Choose or Die as a whole. There’s no sense of foreboding, no sustained atmosphere of fear or dread, just a couple of cheap jump scares and a synth score that puts in overtime. It’s rather hard to respect a movie that presents a scenario where Kayla’s mother is hunted by a giant rat, and then the ensuing action is rendered in 8-bit on an old-school Apple computer as Kayla desperately tries to direct her mother over the phone; it has all the thrill of watching someone else play Oregon Trail in 1988.
Elsewhere, one character is forced to endure the stupidest death ever witnessed in a motion picture — a bold claim, we know, but not made lightly — while Eddie Marsan, of all people, pops up; one has to assume he must have had a bathroom in need of remodeling. All of this leads to a final showdown that is clever in theory but executed so haphazardly that it merely makes one long for a better film to do it proper justice; this is not even accounting for an ending that is both obvious and deeply insulting, setting up a sequel that may or may not happen depending on if Netflix can get enough eyes to watch this lazy insult to the horror genre. If the choice is death or this movie, pray for your sweet release from these mortal coils, poor viewer.
You can currently stream Toby Meakins’ Choose or Die on Netflix.