Netflix’s latest horror original follows pals Kayla (Iola Evans) and Isaac (Asa Butterfield) as they try to defeat a killer retro game that plays with their reality. But what could have been a fun premise with room for sleek references and frights, is just another addition to the mediocre genre lineup the streaming giant offers.
Choose or Die has a slew of issues that pull it away from any potential for a quality story. So much feels unfinished and conflicting that upon the first watch, it leaves you bewildered.
Immediately I was completely thrown off by its bizarre editing and stylistic choices. It’ll snap into a dreamy sequence or cut to the next morning. The former is the most puzzling as the film positions this as a deadly 80s game coming into the real world, affecting the lives of those who play it. So it makes no sense as to why it plays with character perception, or viewer perspective, in that way.
While the dreamlike scenes make for great atmospheric moments, there’s no sense to them. It doesn’t amp up the terror at all. If anything, it takes it away since it serves no purpose. Another underdeveloped idea is the inclusion of the 8-bit game aesthetic. There are attempts but it felt too out of place and goofy for the horror it’s trying to build. I wish it would have been more intentional with that concept and let it play in more of the gruesome moments.
There’s also not enough build-up to care about the characters at the focus. With the movie led by Evans and Butterfield, their lack of development makes them so uninteresting. Even as the film progresses and the two attempt to understand the game, the convoluted rules and nonsensical stakes further tire you out as a viewer.
With an easy-in towards 80s nostalgia and the creativity to explore a techno-horror, Choose or Die had such potential to unlock something exciting and fright-inducing. Instead it feels underdeveloped and like a mashup of other mediocre films that have come before it.
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