MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Choose or Die is a horror film with a creative and creepy high-concept premise about an 80’s 8-bit video game which curses the user by altering reality as they know it. The movie ends up squandering such a plot as it mires itself in glum subplots involving a deceased young boy, a depressed young mother, and an oddly dystopian, anonymous city stacked with poverty-stricken projects that feel completely disconnected from the world around them. What could’ve been a cult classic in the making settles instead for an inevitable fate as a forgettable Netflix original that comes and goes in the annals of their catalogue history. Asa Butterfield stars alongside newcomer Iola Evans, with Eddie Marsan inhabiting a small but singular role and Robert Englund lending his voice in a sly cameo. Clearly inspired by A Nightmare on Elm Street, Choose or Die’s chief problem is its refusal to invest fully in the reality-bending nightmares which serve as the film’s biggest hook. The first such moment is quite memorable: Marsan’s wealthy husband and father discovers Cursr, the game in question, and upon playing finds his teenaged son has severed his own tongue. Later, a coffee shop waitress eats shards of glass as Evan’s lead character Kayla watches on in horror. These moments are memorable precisely due to how creative and curiously disturbing they are, sure, but also because director Toby Meakins ratchets the suspense appropriately. Everything that follows is either far too tied up in family trauma to be any fun, or simply not as creative or horrifying. There’s an entire sequence that goes unseen as, over the phone, Kayla listens to her mother attacked by rodents. An eighty-five minute wannabe-slasher can’t expect audiences to care about a young girl’s family trauma when they’re simply watching to see people killed in increasingly original manners. Meakins seems to believe we want to invest in Kayla’s sob story. We don’t, and we’re all the more bored for it.