Gamebox 1.0 is a lot of things, but (despite the Saw-style DVD cover) a horror flick sure isn't one of 'em. Lionsgate's marketing department ought to know that while a misleading cover might bring in a few extra nickels, it also tends to create some bitterness and disappointed to the buyers who end up feeling duped. Best described as a (very) low-budget mixture of Tron and The Matrix (with a good dose of Brainscan thrown in there), Gamebox 1.0 is definitely not a horror movie -- but it's not the piece of junk I was expecting, all things considered.
Boasting a lot more nifty ideas (be they borrowed or semi-fresh) than it does production value, the flick is a perfect example of why you should probably think a little small when it comes to the indie fare. Basically, in order to do Gamebox 1.0 the best way possible, you'd need at least 10 million bucks to spend on better actors, a few more polishes on the screenplay, and a whole lot of special effects trickery. But let's not bash a flick for what it doesn't have and instead let's focus on what it does have, like a fairly convoluted plot...
Charlie Nash is a miserable young man, despite the fact that he has a few loyal pals and one sweet job as a video game tester. The source of Charlie's misery is the fact that his beautiful girlfriend was shot and killed by a stupid police officer a few years back -- and Chuck's having a lot of trouble dealing with the loss. A distraction arrives in the form of a "brand new" virtual reality game system, which Charlie promptly dives right into. Bad move.
Seems that this supernatural gaming system boasts three whole games: a Grand Theft Auto clone, a zombie massacre, and a game that's supposed to take place on an alien planet, when in fact it looks more like the filmmakers kinda ran out of money after games one and two. Anyway, Charlie has to make it through all three games in one piece before he can climb out of the virtual world and claim victory. Or something. Frankly I was more interested in the visual stuff than I was in the plot department.
Directors David and Scott Hillenbrand keep the geeky ideas and the b-grade eye candy coming at a brisk enough clip to keep one from getting bored, but Gamebox 1.0 is a bit too choppy (and more than a little too beholden to other movies) to warrant anything more flattering than "It was better than I expected." It's a movie of halves, really: Half the cast is pretty solid, while the other half ... isn't. Some of the special effects are appreciably slick; others are purely amateur hour. And like any anthology-style collection, Gamebox 1.0 is only as good as its best story. By that measure, the movie's not half-bad.
Video: Anamorphic widescreen transfer, and a solid one at that -- especially for an FX-heavy independent like this one.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 with optional subtitles in English and Spanish. Audio quality earns about a B+. Again, better than expected...
Extras: The audio commentary (with the Hillenbrand brothers, producer John Coven, and editor Dave O'Brien) is more than chatty enough. Fans of the movie should enjoy the anecdotes; others needn't bother. There's also a 14-minute "making of" featurette that offers the standard cast / crew interviews and looks at the set and FX work, a 5-minute blooper reel, twelve minutes of deleted scenes (with optional commentary), and a whole bunch of Lionsgate trailers.
Again, ignore the DVD cover. This is not a horror flick. But if you're a hardcore video game junkie and you've got a soft spot for scrappy little indie flicks, I'd call Gamebox 1.0 worthy of the rental fee.