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The Ending Of Choose Or Die Explained

"Choose or Die" is a 2022 Netflix sci-fi thriller that tells the story of a girl who comes across a lost eighties survival 8-bit game and tries to play it for a cash prize, only for it to unleash a terrible curse that will see her playing for her life. The film is a fun treat for those who love 1980s era pop culture, complete with a cheeky voice appearance from Freddy Kruger himself, Robert Englund. Yet, it brings enough freshness to its premise to craft a breezy watch. 

Sadly, it's also a film that isn't very loved, with only a 32% on Rotten Tomatoes. Most critics found the film's predictability and lack of effective scares to its detriment. Is all that hate deserved though? While the film certainly doesn't break any new ground, there's still more than enough to appreciate and pick apart with "Choose or Die." 

This especially applies to the intricacies revolving around the deadly game the film revolves around. Turns out, the film's chaotic events prove to be far more meaningful by the end than one might expect. Just how does it do this? Well let's dive in and explore this film from top to bottom.

Broken game, broken life

A reclusive father named Hal (Eddie Marsan) pops in a forgotten beta capsule for a game entitled CURS>R. What he expects to be a text-based adventure winds up giving him commands that apply to the real world. The orders amplify in intensity as it makes him choose to either harm his family or die. He does this for some time, constantly having to hurt his family before he is given the option to share the game.

Years later, when Kayla (Iola Evans) comes across a copy of the game with the offer of a $125,000 cash prize at the home of her friend Isaac ("Sex Education" star and almost-Spider-Man Asa Butterfield), she wants to learn more. Kayla lives a pretty dreary life. Not only does she work a grueling job as a late night cleaner for a company called Kismet (remember that name), but she and her mother (Angelea Griffin) faced tragedy when her little brother drowned. Her mother has become addicted to crack, provided by sleazy landlord Lance (Ryan Gage), and has become delusional.

These establishing elements help showcase what this journey will be about from here on out. In the game, we see something that has the power to alter reality that will harm others and ensure safety for those in control, which will only grow in significance later on. Kayla, whose life is full of people not believing that she will ever escape her bleak existence, is someone who seeks some level of hope that she can gain control. These two elements presented give a window into the power struggle our characters will face moving forward, between finding hope through the game or within themselves.

Leveling up

When Kayla starts up the game at a restaurant late one night, she discovers its real-world altering capabilities. It causes the restaurant's waitress to eat glass and die. Even after trying to destroy it, the game presents her with new levels, such as needing to save her mother from a swarm of rats and exploiting the trauma of her brother's death. She and Issaac track down the location where the game was developed and learn that the developer, Beck (Joe Bolland), translated ancient text into a game code that has the power to adjust reality. Not only that, but it does this at the benefit of the player, practically feeding off the suffering of others. The player can become delusional with power as they see from Beck.

It is then that the game indicates that Kayla must take on the final boss, who turns out to be Hal. Learning that he's the final boss and not the hero, Hal is enraged that guys like him are no longer the heroes. The two are ordered to fight through reverse pain (if Hal hurts himself it hurts Kayla and vice versa). Hal cuts his throat which causes Kayla to fall in the pool. Hal dies but Kayla manages to survive, winning the game.

Hal and Beck offer a glimpse as to who Kayla can become if she becomes too overtaken with the alluring benefits the game can potentially offer her. Yet, despite all her hardships and the doubt she faces from those around her, she manages to pull through. Her rising up from the pool is an especially brilliant piece of symbolism, as she is able to escape same place that was a death sentence to her brother.

With great power comes great responsibility

At the end, Kayla is given control of the game. Now she can target anyone she pleases. When she chooses to kill Lance, her scars go away and her hospitalized mother heals. She is called up by Beck, who is shocked that out of everyone, she was the only one to have beat the game. When asked who she plans to go after next, she says only those who deserve it.

It is also here that we learn that the building that Beck runs is called Kismet, the same building that Kayla worked at as a cleaner. Earlier in the film we can also spot the Kismet name on an eviction notice and as the name of somewhere Kayla tries applying to. Along with being the name of the company, kismet is another word for destiny or fate. Beck has had a hand in just about every avenue of Kayla's life. He was benefiting from the suffering of her and everyone else who worked under his company. Earlier in the film, Kayla finds a drawing Isaac made of her and comments how nice it was to draw her as a superhero, to which he responds to use her powers wisely.

This moment foreshadows the ultimate end point for Kayla. Now that she has overcome the odds and holds great power in her hands, she chooses to use it only when needed rather than using it to soak up the suffering of others. She has become a chosen one of sorts, her maturity in realizing what really matters in the grand scheme comes full circle. Now hopefully, she can help end the curse that the game has created for so many over the years once and for all.