Monday 23 May 2022

REVIEW: Choose or Die (2022) Starring Iola Evans and Asa Butterfield

Review by Jon Donnis
Iola Evans stars as Kayla, a college dropout working as a cleaner who is drawn into the nightmarish world of CURS>R, an 80s style text video game that can affect reality. I have the feeling that I have seen a film with a near identical plot line to this before?

The film starts with Hal (Eddie Marsan), a collector of old video games, who is clearly neglecting his family, he gets his hands on a copy of an old text based, interactive computer game called CURS>R. (That was the original name of the film by the way). 

Hal starts up the game assuming it will be another classic 80s adventure game, but before you know it, objects around him in the real world are starting to interact with what is happening in the game, before you know it the lights have gone out and his wife has cut out the tongue of his teenage son.

We quickly fast forward a few months and to college student Kayla, she is working as a cleaner to help pay for her studies, she also collects new and old technology which she gives to her geeky friend Isaac played by Asa Butterfield, in exchange he helps teach her computer coding which she can use in her college classes.

Kayla's homelife is tough, her mother Thea (played by Corrie legend Angela Griffin) is a drug addict suffering with mental health issues, as well as abuse from her landlord Lance, (Ryan Gage) who has forced her into prostitution to pay for the rent.

After visiting Isaac after work, Kayla discovers the CURS>R game in his apartment, along with a phone number offering a $125k prize. She calls the number and receives a recorded message from the Terror Director (voiced by horror icon Robert Englund) telling her if she has completed the game, to insert the number code after the tone to win the money. Intrigued by the offer, Kayla accepts the challenge, thinking it will be easy money, and arranges a deal with Isaac to share the prize.

Kayla starts playing the game in a café that evening and before you know it, the game is affecting reality and the waitress is eating broken glass. Kayla makes a binary choice in the game, that then affects reality and if you make the right choice, you complete the level, but that usually ends up with someone else suffering.

What follows is a decent little horror film, roughly 80 minutes, so easy to digest. An early scene sees Kayla on the phone to her mother while playing the game, we as the viewer are only seeing Kayla and the 80s style graphics on a CRT TV screen, yet as the Kayla is trying to help her mother escape from a monster, it really surprised me how invested I found myself in the scene, despite visually only seeing the text based game, really well produced scene which I thought deserved a special mention.

Although the film is rather predictable, and as I said I feel like I have seen something very similar before, I thought overall the film was well made, and delivered pretty much what it promised. With a nice twist at the end of sorts.

The Good
The film is the perfect length, I thought Iola Evans and Asa Butterfield played their parts very well. And the growing tension in certain scenes was really well done.

The Bad
Angela Griffin despite being the second most famous actor in the film is no more than a cameo, which is just a misuse of her talent. I would have also liked to have seen Robert Englund given a more physical role.

I do like my low budget, Indie Horror films, and this one, ticks all the right boxes. I actually grew up on those 1980s text based adventure games, so I think people from my generation will appreciate the story more than say someone under 40.

Choose or Die is a decent horror film which deserves your attention. Give it a shot, it is only 80 minutes after all.

I score Choose or Die a solid 8/10