‘Choose or Die’ Review: Choose a Better Horror Movie
By Daniel Rester
Choose or Die is the latest middling Netflix film that shows potential but ultimately feels half-formed. Written by Simon Allen and directed by Toby Meakins, in his directorial debut, it’s a horror flick with some style. Unfortunately, when it tries to add some substance to that style, the plot turns and thematic explorations become laughable the more the film goes on.
Iola Evans plays Kayla, a janitor who sells old technology to a friend named Isaac (Asa Butterfield). She also cares for her mother, who has become a drug addict after her son died from an accident. One day, Kayla and Isaac come across an ’80s survival horror game called CURS>R. As they play it, the game begins to infiltrate the real world in nightmarish ways.
Meakins’ film starts out decent enough with its love for ’80s tech and a playfully horrific scene involving the chewing of glass. Evans and Butterfield also have natural chemistry together. The film is well shot throughout by cinematographer Catherine Derry as well, especially in a dreamlike scene involving a red door and a blue door. Horror legend Robert Englund contributes his voice to the film as a fun nod; he plays himself as the narrator of sorts for CURS>R.
When it’s not trying to take itself too seriously and just focuses on its visually striking horror moments, Choose or Die works more often than not. But a lot of the time the plot shifts to Kayla arguing with her mom’s drug dealer, and these sections are flat and boring rather than tense. When the curse behind CURS>R is eventually explained through an exposition dump scene with a guy on a tape, that too comes across as clunky. What starts out as an okay ride eventually just turns into nonsense with the film.
Meakins has an eye for detail as a director, but Choose or Die is too short and messy at 84 minutes. Butterfield helps keep it enjoyable at times though as the geeky computer expert Isaac. I wish there were more of him and less drug dealer clichés and failed attempts at emotional weight.
My Grade: 4.5/10 (letter grade equivalent: C-)
Running Time: 1h 24min