Starring: Iola Evans, Asa Butterfield, Robert England, Angela Griffin, Ryan Gage, and Eddie Marsan.
Directed By: Toby Meekins
Where i Watched it: Netflix
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Description Provided By: Deluxe
Narration By: Ushwin Peffie
Narrated By William Michael Redmond
The Plot: An old school 80s 8-bit video game, apparently possessed by some form of evil, wreaks havoc on those who in 2022 still play 8-bit computer games. So, naturally our protagonist is a coder, who knows a lot about computers. As soon as she makes the choice to play, every successive choice has horrifying real world consequences.
What Works: I’d be lying if i said this film didn’t entertain me on some level. Sure, this isn’t the best script. But there’s a core concept here that doesn’t suck, and they go hard on the kill sequences to disturb you Final Destination style. No one just dies a nice quiet death. There’s some disturbing stuff afoot here. And I don’t mean acting or dialogue.
The cast does a good enough job all things considered. They’re trapped in a genre movie that views them mostly as one dimensional characters, and a few of the more sympathetic characters do manage to inject a slight part of depth to their characters that will make you care if one or two of them actually survive this film.
The pacing is actually really well done, and with such a short runtime, i found myself in the ultra rare position of wanting more from the film, mainly due to lack of exposition regarding the actual origins of evil here. But, that’s almost never a thing anyone wants. usually films have too much exposition, and overstay their welcome. i think a stronger version of this might have been 5 minutes longer, but also, I do have to give it credit for not wasting time and having fast pacing, even if it means the story ultimately suffers.
I’ve seen other critics pushing a hard comparison to Truth or dare, which isn’t fair. And also Stay Alive. This feels a or more to me like the underrated 13 Sins, because of the assumed prize at the end, and having a down on their luck protagonist that could really use the boost in life for us to root for even as these terrible things keep happening all around them.
i enjoyed this movie more for some of it’s nonsense, instead of it actually being scary. We’re not quite in the “so bad its good” realm, but it touches on that. I wasn’t entertained necessarily always for all the right reasons. There’s this somewhat goofy sequence with a rat that is played seriously, but had me laughing because of all the things that were happening around that time. I love that our main character wasn’t at the rat attack, and was watching things from her 8 bit computer game screen. That made it even funnier to me. And, yes, the idea was planted and not completely out of nowhere, but it’s so batshit left field that I have to give the film props for pulling that asinine nonsense out and having the cojones to actually put it to film.
What Doesn’t Work: I’m sorry, but i need. NEED. To spoil a tiny thing in order to actually talk about this segment. I promise, it won’t really ruin the film for you. At least, i don’t believe so.
The film is called Choose or Die. No one fails to choose and therefore dies. Everyone always chooses. All that happens if they wait to long is they seem to get a bad headache. This film needed to follow through on the premise at least once. Truth or Dare, which is already a shitty film, would have been a lot shittier if everyone always just chose truth. S
The character of Lance is so intensely and cartoonishly dislikable, he seems destined for death from the moment he sets foot on screen. It’s a bit too obvious, but maybe we’re supposed to spend the whole movie rooting for his eventual demise. The rest of the characters at least have somewhat of a balance, but that dude is 100% bad guy, almost like a bad stereotype.
As I already said, we needed more exposition about the actual evil. Sure, we learn more about the origins, but what the fuck is actually causing all this magical shit to happen? People are seemingly transported, and that takes some serious voodoo to make happen, not just a computer nerd with great coding skills. There’s nothing really to explain all of the mystical and magical in this film, nor do they really care.
And while i can say it works, i also have to acknowledge that our silly insanity of the rat sequence. I just. I watched this film two days ago, and I’m still processing that nonsense. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen anything like that in a horror film, and there’s nothing really to prepare you for the absurdity of it. It’s not that it was violent, or so gory or anything like that. It’s just so absolutely insanely stupid. Or perhaps brilliant. I really don’t know. I may never know.
The Blind Perspective: While it might be a faux pas to say this, William Michael Redmond is my favorite narrator for any horror film. He’s a rare narrator that I’ve found can actually elevate a film through his participation in the narration process. i made this same comment when he read Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I believe it still. his voice is perfectly suited for this genre, and he reads everything with a gruff intensity to his voice that is so perfect for this genre. you don’t want a sleepy narration here, you want someone who seems to understand the carnage happening on screen, and he voice conveys that in spades.
The written narration will give you everything you need, from descriptions of what the computer game looks like, to words on screens and walls, to graphic descriptions of the deaths. This is very good audio description, perhaps even better than this film deserved.
Final Thoughts: I may have enjoyed this a bit more for some of the wrong reasons, laughing when I wasn’t supposed to, and never actually being scared. I appreciate that this film doesn’t attempt to fill it’s pacing with unnecessary jump scares, and I can’t lie and say I had a bad time. I’d even watch a sequel, especially if it explained more about where the fuck this jumanji from hell actually came from. It’s not great, but it’s not awful.
Final Grade: C+