by Jason Coffman
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If you have ever watched a film in which the characters were watching a humorously straight-faced horror movie and wondered what it would be like to see the whole thing, Choose helpfully gives you that option. It’s sort of hard to believe a film like Choose could still exist and even get a decent release through IFC in a post-Saw horror film market, but then perhaps that franchise’s inexplicable popularity is exactly why IFC took a chance on this film. In any case, it’s certainly an exception among IFC’s excellent recent genre fare.
Fiona Wagner (Katheryn Winnick) is a journalism student whose father (Kevin Pollak) is the sheriff in a college town. Fiona’s mother drowned herself in a hotel bath tub three years earlier, and now a series of bizarre attacks in which a hooded man forces people to choose between unpleasant circumstances may be related to Fiona’s past. The choices the villain presents are generally based on EC Comics-style irony: a pianist can choose to lose his fingers or his hearing, etc. While he continues his grisly mission, he draws Fiona into a trap so his grand scheme can be revealed.
If Choose had even a hint of self-awareness, it would play as a parody of post-/sub-Saw horror films. However, it does not, so it basically plays as a parody of itself. The storyline of Choose is utterly straightforward and predictable, and is played out with an earnestness that feels almost alien. As the villain piles on the clues, could his identity really be so obvious? Would a filmmaker really telegraph a twist ending this early by casting a cult character actor in a small but pivotal role? What the hell is Bruce Dern doing in this movie?
First-time director Marcus Graves keeps the action moving at a decent clip, and it all looks slick enough— if a little too colorful for a standard Saw knock-off. There are some violent moments, but hardly more than viewers are used to seeing on network TV shows like CSI. The complete lack of sex and nudity seems to indicate that the filmmakers were banking on something else to hook viewers, although what that hook might be is a mystery. Choose manages to strike a weird done: too ridiculous to be scary, but not ridiculous enough to work as camp. In the end, it’s just another standard-issue direct-to-disc horror movie that’s technically competent but uninteresting.
Choose was released on DVD by IFC/MPI on 9 August 2011. Extras include deleted scenes, trailer, interviews and an alternate ending.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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