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John’s Horror Corner: Choose or Die (2022), a Netflix original about a ‘killer game’ that starts out entertaining, but ultimately I suffered…

April 19, 2022

MY CALL:  Yeah, this started out entertaining enough. But by the end, I was suffering like the movie’s unwilling victims. I simply did not care for this. It’s not original or clever, despite being capably made its execution doesn’t bring any new style to familiar ideas, and it’s not as gory or shocking as the trailer suggested (in case that would be a saving grace for some). Sorry, but this is a nope for me.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Choose or DieFor more movies, Truth or Dare (2018), Would You Rather (2012) or Red Room (1999). For more bewitching computer and board games, consider Stay Alive (2006), Brainscan (1994), Arcade (1993), Lawnmower Man (1992), Open Graves (2009), Beyond the Gates (2016) or The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond (2009).

As if operating in a much older version of The Matrix, we are introduced to an 80s computer game with a full awareness of its player’s surroundings… as well as full control over reality. The game prompts decisions: this or that? To which the player responds and the results (or consequences) are realized against the will of all affected. Such is the revelation when a man finds his terrified wife holding a bloody kitchen knife in one hand and their son’s tongue in the other. Meanwhile they’re bloody-mouthed son looks as baffled and traumatized as everyone else. This game feels like Jigsaw possessed a computer game, and it plays out like a (sometimes) better version of Truth or Dare (2018) as players or innocents are possessed by the will of the game.

Isaac (Asa Butterfield; Sex Education, Ender’s Game, The Wolfman, Slaughterhouse Rulez) and Kayla (Iola Evans; The 100, Carnival Row) are game designers who stumble across this old computer game narrated by Robert Englund (Robert Englund; A Nightmare on Elm Street). I was soooo hoping Englund would have a physical role in this movie, but alas no.

The game is a soulless, dark force that will readily force you to decide what brutal physical torturesome horror will befall an innocent bystander at your hands—only it will describe your choice as something more innocuous. Should you abandon the game, a Resident Evil (2002) Red Queen-like creepy kid avatar admonishes the consequences: choose or die. So our player chooses… and watches… as a diner waitress, who is disturbingly well aware of what’s happening despite her inability to prevent her possession, chews and swallows piece after gut-wrenching piece broken glass.

The game continues to challenge Isaac and Kayla, warping reality by manifesting doors and dreamscapes to challenge their grasp on reality. Unfortunately, this movie has played all its tricks in the first hand, and becomes old and played out halfway through the movie. As we learn the origins of the game, my patience is wearing thin with this ever-less entertaining story. Basic and contrived, this movie’s finale thinks it’s clever. But I don’t. And some viewers may agree that it’s clever—I’m not saying those viewers are wrong; I just felt the opposite. I think it’s annoyingly basic, especially in execution. Sure, there’s some entertainment value in this final showdown of the game. I’ve just seen too much to care. I’m sure I sound bitter and jaded, but really, it’s just this movie.

I started out enjoying this for 30-40 minutes, then felt less and less impressed with every scene to the point of aggravation. Maybe viewers who have seen less will be less bothered. You might find their reviews… because I’m definitely not recommending this. My most constructive criticism would be this is likely a more intense selection for those who enjoyed the Netflix Fear Street trilogy.

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