Review – Play or Die (2019)

Originally, I was supposed to go to an actual escape room challenge for my birthday in February, but I never got around to it because I couldn’t get enough people to join me for that adventure, but I’ve been lucky enough to see a couple of movies now that kind of follow the same basic structure. The first, obviously, being Escape Room, and then I also watched the Turkish horror/thriller film, Play or Die, which thankfully wasn’t a foreign language film. Apart from those two films, I’m also one of the rare fans of The Saw Franchise, which in its own way, is all about escape rooms as well. I just love how they all connect, the mysteries and riddles found within…it’s all a ton of fun. That doesn’t immediately mean a movie is actually any good though. So, how is Play or Die? Let’s find out.

Welcome to Paranoia, the ultimate escape game. Rule #1: Nothing is real. Rule #2: One of you will die. Lucas and Chloe, two passionate gamers, decide to participate to Paranoia. After solving the first riddle, they make it to the location of the finale in an abandoned mental hospital, lost in a frightening forest. There, four other participants are waiting on them. They soon realize that only one of them will get out of there alive.

Boburst Productions

There are a few things you come to expect out of these films, as well as things you hope they’d do that others don’t. Most of these films are classified as horror films, but I never watch for the scares. I watch for the fun. There’s a level of entertainment in these films that feels creative and unique…even when they technically probably aren’t. Play or Die is a film that has only one main issue that it couldn’t avoid, and that was budget. Everything from the trailer to the film itself gives off the overall feeling that there is a low-budget at the heart of everything. That doesn’t mean bad, though, it just means challenging. Thankfully, the filmmakers knew their limitations and never sought to do the impossible.

The strengths in this film lie within its structure. The way that it is written and the way that it looks is honestly impressive in the long term. Just like Escape Room, this film had the difficult task to convince the audience that even though it was an exaggerated look at escape rooms, that they still understood how the real deal is operated as a base. They separated these tests by mental and physical agility. Things like strength, math, and memory are all an area of problem-solving that these characters must succeed in. There was only one room that felt over-the-top for me, because it seemed to be created specifically with one character in mind…it wasn’t a room anyone could solve. The Saw Franchise had an incredible method of communicating when a trap is designed for a specific character, but that never actually happened here, and because of that, I feel as if the trap was a little excessive.

As I mentioned above, the way that the film looks is also impressive, specifically when it came to their utilization of both lighting and color. The mixture and contrast of opposing colors really helped make this film feel bigger than it actually was, and as usual, helped solidify the message that it was attempting to communicate.

Overall, I’d say the movie is actually relatively entertaining. It has a few issues when it comes down to narrative making logical sense, because it never completely explains its own mysteries. It does explain the major questions at hand, but not the subtle mysteries that come to mind after you watch it, which only gives off the impression that it didn’t think EVERYTHING through. Definitely a fun time, though.

TOTAL SCORE – 75%

Current 2019 Ranking:
Overall: 12th Place (5-Way Tie with Escape Room, Captain Marvel, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, and Us)
Horror: 3rd Place (3-Way Tie with Escape Room and Us)
Thriller: 5th Place (5-Way Tie with Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, Escape Room, and Us)

Other Horror/Thriller Films rated 75%
Annihilation
Happy Death Day
The Strangers
Halloween (’07)
When A Stranger Calls (’06)

Specs:
PEOPLE SCORE (10/20)
Acting (3/4) | Characters (2/4) | Casting (2/4) | Importance (1/4) | Chemistry (2/4)
WRITING SCORE (8/10)
Dialogue (2/2) | Balance (2/2) | Story Depth (1/2) | Originality (1/2) | Concept (2/2)
BEHIND-THE-SCENES SCORE (7/10)
Visuals (2/2) | Cinematography (1/2) | Editing (1/2) | Advertising (2/2) | Music & Sound (1/2)
NARRATIVE ARC SCORE (9/10)
Introduction (2/2) | Inciting Incident (1/2) | Obstacles (2/2) | Climax (2/2) | Falling Action (2/2)
ENTERTAINMENT SCORE (6/10)
Rewatchability (1/2) | Fun Experience (2/2) | Impulse to Buy or Own (0/2) | Impulse to Talk About or Recommend (1/2) | Engaging & Riveting (2/2)
SPECIALTY SCORE (35/40)
Escape Room (10/10) | Horror (5/10) | Budget Limitations (10/10) | Halfway Decent (10/10)

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