Plot: A journalism student tracks the bloody path of a serial killer who has a nifty gimmick – he makes people choose how they will die, who they will kill, or in what way they’ll be mutilated. While her father the sheriff bumbles along ignoring glaring connections between cases, and even some throwbacks to his wife’s death, until finally realizing “hey, there be a serial killer in my town!”, our hot and plucky heroine tries to piece together the identity of the killer, figure out what he has to do with her mother’s suicide, and find a way to survive in case she’s the next one to have to choose.
Review: A good horror movie needs a gimmick, right; that unique hook that grabs the audience and possibly even gives some deeper meaning to the blood and guts? Some movies took their simple gimmick and created lasting horror classics, even while dry humping the audience into submission with pointless sequels. Other gimmicks have thankfully fizzled and died after one movie, only to be reused by other movies, some of which again hit it big. What we have here with Choose is an interesting gimmick, the introduction of choice into the gory shenanigans, that was better handled in Saw and here serves only to make a paint-by-numbers serial killer thriller seem more intelligent than it actually is. Sure the movie is well shot, with some not too terrible performances and a little bit of style. But the payoff from the setup of the opening sequence never really arrives, and the gimmick itself is given the usual run of “movie psychology” and not really explored with any depth.
After the great above mentioned opening (I’m ignoring the whole “the killer just handed you a knife and is three feet away from you looking in the other direction” stupid horror character moment), we follow Fiona (the gorgeous Katheryn Winnick) as she boldly makes herself a target after the killer sends her an instant message. She then tries to convince her father the clueless sheriff that something bad is happening, while being taunted by the killer about her dead mother. See, our hoodie wearing killer has a reason to target Fiona, but I’ll get to that later. What we’re treated to after this, aside from some almost bloodless kills or mutilations, is Fiona using her amateur detective skills and the infinite power of Google to trace the killer’s past and figure out who he is. Google has become the 21st Century equivalent of “hacking” for movies. Remember when movie “hackers” could use any computer to remotely steal secrets, empty bank accounts, blow up planes and buildings, crash the stock market, kill your dog and give you the clap, all with the awesome power of MS-Dos? Ah, Hollywood. Well, apparently just by doing a few Google searches you can decipher an out of date library barcode system, track the book to its point of origin, and research the inmates of a juvenile detention facility. I could keep going, but you know what, f*ck it, Google gives you god like powers of research and analysis, like having your own little intelligence agency right on your desktop (maybe that’s why it keeps giving me Cambodian Farm-Equipment-Porn sites, IT CAN READ MY MIND!).
The script takes some giant leaps of logic, and plays fast and loose with the methods of psychiatry, journalism, police work, and even with its own gimmick (the four or five choices offered in the movie, aside from the first one, are pretty tame and not really inspired), and this makes for some pretty ho-hum thriller material for an audience that knows better, and has seen better before. At least they didn’t get anvilicious with their concept, and instead they played it straight and simple with a little bit of fun rolled in. The dialogue and ideas are a little corny (“Choice Therapy”, really? Here’s a hint, don’t give crazy delinquent kids a puppy to hold. Just a thought.), and this does give us some chuckle-worthy moments in between jump scares and head scratching plot twists. Yep, there’s a twist that is so far out of left field, even though they tried to allude to it throughout the entire movie, that I won’t reveal here so you can experience the full power of “Where The F*ck Did That Come From?”. And we even get a little bonus twist at the very end, but by this point if you’re paying attention at all you did better than I could.
Acting wise, the folks here did the best they could with what they were given. Winnick was good as the lead, and I could have spent the whole movie just looking at her and called it a good night. Her character did make some dumbass moves, like boldly charging into a place she knows the killer to be, heedless of all danger. The usually excellent Kevin Pollack was horribly underused here, and I never bought his laid back calm and slipshod police work. Seriously, doesn’t this guy get bothered by anything that is going on? Several scenes and revelations should have made giant warning bells go off in his head, especially when you factor in the surprise twist, yet he remains unfazed throughout it all, and sadly his ultimate fate is left unexplained in the end. Bruce Dern has a short but memorable role as a psychiatrist, and the rest of the cast is just scenery really. Except for the daughter form the opening scene, Shana Dowdeswell, who was pretty awesome doing what she had to do.
I didn’t hate the movie entirely, it was just that some things bugged me as a horror fan, and ultimately I found myself mildly entertained. In the end, Choose is a middle of the road thriller that I get the impression I’ve seen before, a number of times. It had an interesting premise, albeit one that’s been done better by other movies, but its lack of depth and laid back presentation never really makes anything great from that premise. It’s a pretty standard serial killer flick with a few bits of mild gore and a bit of tension and atmosphere, but just don’t expect too much if you choose this one. Despite an okay cast, great production value and some pretty good film making, the script dragged the movie down, making it just another serial killer thriller clone that doesn’t really offer much outside of a pretty safe way to spend 90 minutes.