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Play or Die (2019): A Review

Play or Die

A Place Where Paranoia Reigns

Play or Die is a 2019 horror thriller directed by Jacques Kluger. The film can be found currently streaming on Amazon Prime. With Play or Die, Kluger attempts to manifest on screen the work of Franck Thilliez, author of the novel Puzzle.

How Most Puzzles Start

Play or Die starts off a lot like most puzzles. It’s hard to see the bigger picture initially. The premise is obscure. Before we know it, we jump headfirst into a situation with no clarity.

Meet the Cast

We are introduced to two main characters. Lucas and Chloe are lovers who have spent time apart. Judging the context of their meeting, there remains tension. In fact, it seems one of the pair has built up animosity about a past ill. Despite the hostility, we see the bond.

Getting it Started

Lucas and Chloe pair up to check out a rave within the film’s first moments. This pursuit leads to an exclusive gaming invitation. The beginning is mind-boggling and I wondered if there was a feature before this.

Into the Dark

At the film’s onset, no one is quite aware of what game must be played. Nevertheless, all horror enthusiasts give a movie at least one shot to see if there is something significant or novel in the offering. 

Delving Into Paranoia

What is Paranoia? Coincidentally, it is the name of a retrofitted hospital. And Paranoia isn’t only an old hospital but a former mental institution converted into a playground of terror.

Sadly, hope for a divulge from the norm is cut off at the knees after the reveal. The viewer soon understands they are dealing with an escape game. Paranoia is an elaborately constructed escape room.

Muddy Rules

As the title suggests, the game’s rules are simple: Survive or die. However, there is little focus on the play or die aspect throughout the film and perhaps this is not so problematic. The mechanisms tied to the puzzle tell us everything we need to know.  

As for participants, all except for two seem to have no actual link. Several hold secrets; some of which are key to this setup.

Play or Die

In the Maze

Play or Die moves quickly, almost rushed. The puzzles are very high-brow/intellectual and one puzzle I found to be especially creative. A piano piece, knowledge of classical artists, and music theory combine to form a solution to an intense puzzle. Imagine all of this takes place in the middle of a raging inferno. Admittedly this puzzle was unique, although odd. 

Paranoia: A Place Where Paranoia Reigns

People pop up from out of nowhere. No questions are asked but we get random answers. The entire thing is confusing, so the movie comes off as scatterbrained. There is so much to tie together, though the yarn is weak and thready. 

Twists That Lead to Twists

From appearances, the writer attempts to make good use of the twist as a tool, however, they are poorly executed. One winds into another, adding to the confusion rather than intrigue. The acting is in perfect match to the way the story is crafted. 


This story is built on a history that the viewers are clueless about in the beginning. The director feeds it to us bit by bit. In some cases, this creates intrigue but in this instance it comes off as disjointed. All roads lead to confusion. Without a doubt, there is a rationale for the mayhem, however the motivation is given in fragments. It may take the viewer a while to piece everything together, which doesn’t always make for an entertaining experience.


There is potential in Play or Die, though realizing that potential requires scrapping the movie and starting again. The movie would provide a perfect comparison to a sliding picture puzzle. With a sliding puzzle, one slides pieces repeatedly until revealing the bigger picture. With Play or Die, although there is a picture in there, the longer you watch, the more you realize you have a picture. Nevertheless, many pieces are still out of place.

In Summation 

This film is positioned to find itself a place in the pile of other escapist horror flicks, unfortunately it does not find its way at the top. Nevertheless, if you are a horror enthusiast and watching horror makes you happy, why not give it a watch.

Play or Die

Play or Die (2019) Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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