Choose or Die (2022) Movie Explained: Ending & Themes Analyzed
Choose or Die (2022) Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analyzed: Netflix’s latest horror offering, ‘Choose or Die (CURS>R)’, is directed by Toby Meakins and stars Iola Evans, Asa Butterfield, Eddie Marsan, Angela Griffin, Joe Bollan, and Robert Englund. At 84 minutes, it’s a fairly short affair that takes its viewers into the nightmarish world of a video game with unknown origins and playing which has fatal consequences.
Using a synth soundtrack composed by Liam Howlett of The Prodigy, its fascination with the ‘80s is evident from the get-go. The lurid, neon visual style furthers this yet its preoccupation with that period seems largely superficial. The idea of an interactive fiction game being ‘alive’ is a positively Lovecraftian idea and it isn’t a bad thing that the film is not bombarding us with references from the ‘80s at every turn yet this choice feels more of an aesthetic device to give its sound and visuals a distinguishing flavor than an actual delve into the era’s culture.
Choose or Die Movie Plot Summary & Synopsis:
In the prologue, we are introduced to Hal, a well-off man whose obsession with pop culture from the ‘80s emasculates him in front of his wife and son. He boots up a game titled ‘CURS>R’ to pass the time but soon realizes it can interact with reality, which he surprisingly doesn’t find terrifying at all. In the first level, the final choice he’s provided is to choose between his wife’s ears or his son’s tongue. As he forcefully makes a choice, given the game states that he either has to make a choice or die himself, he discovers that his wife has involuntarily chopped off his son’s tongue. Over the course of the opening credits, we are informed that Hal kept playing this game, harming his family repeatedly over the course of it till he was provided with a choice to continue or make copies of the game, choosing the latter obviously and making his curse transmissible like in ‘It Follows’.
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Kayla is a broke college student who lives with her drug-addict mother and works as a cleaner to support her education. The latter grieves over the death of her son at a young age when while playing in a swimming pool, Kayla’s momentary drifting of attention caused him to drown. Kayla is also friends with Isaac, a game designer, and another ‘80s pop culture lover. During one of their meetings, she discovers a copy of CURS>R in a boxful of junk he owns, with a prize of $125,000 on it for the winner which instantly entices her to give it a chance. When Isaac does not show up for their meeting where they were to start playing the game, she starts playing it on her own and during the first level, inadvertently ends up killing a waitress in a most violent fashion in response to the ‘Choose or Die’ prompt. Soon, the game starts taking over her life while threatening the lives of everyone around her and only Isaac seems capable of finding a solution.
Choose or Die (2022) Movie Themes Analyzed:
A singular theme that runs throughout ‘Choose or Die’ is that of exploitation. It begins with the character of Hal who has his nostalgia for the ‘80s exploited in a most arbitrary fashion by a game that feeds itself on the pain and suffering of its players, making it in essence, a game that quite tangibly exploits its player. When Kayla is on the third level of the game, it uses her grief at having lost her brother, highlighting that within the recesses of the game’s random violence, there is a sadistic desire to harness the emotions of its players.
Kayla is a character who lives in a low-income neighborhood which is said to be a place from which no one can prosper unless they can find a way to leave it. Kayla’s mother, bereaving her son’s death, is forced into drug addiction by their landlord who is a dealer himself and uses drugs to incapacitate her, then sexually exploiting her. This is done by him as a substitute for the rent which neither of them can pay to him and he constantly tries his hand at luring Kayla too to give him sexual favors in exchange for money, something she vehemently resists from giving into.
Choose or Die Movie Ending Explained:
After Kayla successfully manages to maneuver the third level and save Isaac’s life, he manages to come up with a solution. He uses a hack that kids in the ‘80s did to play phone-based games to track where the prize-line number is located, which unsurprisingly, is an abandoned warehouse in the middle of nowhere. Inside the warehouse, they discover a tape from 1984. In it, a man named Beck, who positively looks like a serial killer, explains how CURS>R was made. He discovered these ancient hieroglyphics with an unknown origin where each symbol, when ‘used against’ someone, would cause them pain, fear, or trauma. Beck also discovered that the user of the symbols, ‘the curser’ that is, benefitted from the hurt of the cursed. He encoded those symbols into 8-bit characters and with that, made the game. Beck makes a tester for his gameplay, wherein the tester who is hungry is asked to choose between eating the computer or his arm. To demonstrate the relationship between the curser and the cursed, Beck slits his arm with a knife. When the tester is forced to bite into his arm, having chosen to eat his arm in the game, the more he tears into the flesh of his arm, the more Beck’s self-inflicted injury heals.
Kayla and Isaac, horrified at their discovery, try to escape but Beck starts to speak to them through the computer and fast-tracks Level 4 to the present moment, instantly trapping them. In the process, Kayla is forced to make a choice that kills Isaac but she does technically beat the third level of CURS>R. She is then given coordinates to a location where she is to fight the ‘boss’ and beat the game. Heartbroken yet determined, Kayla drives to the location which turns out to be Hal’s house. Inside, Hal is now a true patriarch who keeps his wife and son under his thumb who are both visibly mutilated from the game’s exploits. The ‘boss battle’ against Hal commences which offends him as he is not the hero but the villain. The battle has two rules – if Hal attacks himself, Kayla is hurt and vice versa, and whoever kills the other, wins the game. In the ensuing fight, Hal injures Kayla severely and causes her to fall into the pool but since she is not dead, staying submerged in the water causes Hal to die from drowning.
In the aftermath of Hal’s death, Kayla having defeated the game is the new curser. She first uses it on Lance, luring him for a sexual encounter before making him drop on a sink full of needles. Hurting and killing Lance causes the injuries Kayla sustained during the fight with Hal to heal and it also helps her mother recover from the ordeal of the game’s second level, making her quote Beck’s words ‘Sometimes, a curse can be a gift’. She gets a call from Beck asking her who her next target will be. Equipped now with the powers of the curser, she tells him that whoever deserves punishment, which is, people like Lance, will be her target, turning her into an anti-hero in the film’s final moments.