Choose or die review

I really love a good cold open… and this one works well.  Sets up the main plot device quickly and succinctly and does so with aplomb and creative storytelling.

Curs>r  is a game purportedly from the 80s that forces players to choose between two options, you have to choose, or you die. The game quickly begins forcing its players to choose between various ways of hurting people around them.

The movie follows Kayla, a young woman facing hard times and her friend and fellow computer programmer-type Isaac as they try and navigate the reality-bending nightmare of the game.

It’s nigh unrelenting, laced with tough, emotionally driven choices with some similarly difficult imagery to go along with it. It’s almost to it’s own detriment… there’s not much time to relax and the game moves so quickly, showing it’s evil cards, if you will, that it loses some of its impact.

Don’t get me wrong… this is a pretty decent movie, with a interesting take on the tropes of movies like The Ring and the less-than-stellar feardotcome, along with a slight twist on the ongoing 80s nostalgia trend.  Theres some fun nods to old video games and a cool animation sequence that’s a fun aside – it’s short and doesn’t do much for the story, never really coming into play in any significant way.

This is director Toby Meakins first feature and he does well.  The pacing, if a little frenetic, is decent, the story is told well. The cinematography, while nothing special, is satisfactory and never detracts… the filmmakers know how to convey their message and keep what’s on screen as interesting as possible.  The sound design is great and the soundtrack is a little eclectic but compliments the visuals and mixes up nostalgia pieces nicely with some modern day music.

The cast is great.  Our lead, Lola Evans, is solid and she is well supported by a pretty decent showing from the likes of Asa Butterfield, Eddie Marian, Ryan Gage and some voice work from Robert Englund.

The film wears its love of video games and horror movies on its sleeve but tempers it with a desire to change and move past the trappings of the past, despite, or more likely in spite of its nostalgic overtones.

The ending feels a little too rushed – though, honestly, the whole movie is a little speedy, that 85min runtime soars by – and there are some rules (plot point rules, as opposed to in-game rules) that aren’t properly expressed and there’s definitely something intangible missing, I just can’t quite place it.

But overall it’s an entertain dash that touches on the, increasingly overused, nostalgia button (but does so in a different way than most, so it’s mostly fine), has some fair scares, and very capable acting and production value… unfortunately it’s lacking a little in the cgi quality department and it could have used some more gore and practical make up effects for the kills and maims featured throughout – though I will say the little bit we do get ain’t too shabby… it’s definitely worth a watch and is another successful horror attempt from the Netflix Original release catalog.

Written by Mark Wilmot