"If you wanted to take over the world, video games would be a good way to do it," says a radio host early in Game Box 1.0. Anyone who's ever found himself playing Gran Turismo for hours on end can relate to getting completely sucked in to a computer game, and that's the premise behind this surprisingly engrossing direct-to-video effort.
Charlie Nash (Nate Richert) plays video games all day, reporting on bugs and possible improvements, for a living. A pretty sweet gig, you'd think, but he's become an antisocial, depressed recluse after his girlfriend (Danielle Fishel, whose role on Boy Meets World makes her the only recognizable member of the cast) was shot dead by a crooked police officer. One day a mysterious package arrives at his home, containing an unusual video-game console which doesn't even need to be hooked up to a television - instead, you put on a strange-looking headset and find yourself sucked into a virtual-reality Grand Theft Auto knockoff where all the characters look like people you know. (Co-directors David and Scott Hillenbrand admit that Tron was a major inspiration for Game Box 1.0.) In Charlie's world, the bad guy is the cop who shot his girlfriend - and his late girlfriend is the woman he has to protect.
Game Box 1.0 is a remarkably ambitious project, considering its miniscule budget, and that's why I didn't have particularly high expectations heading in. But I was quite surprised to find myself enjoying the movie, at last while Richert and Fishel were in the "Crime Spree" game. This "world" doesn't look particularly realistic, but it is a reasonable approximation of something like Grand Theft Auto, so it works. The other virtual-reality games in which the characters are trapped, unfortunately, don't work quite so well - a "zombie" world features jerky black silhouettes (kind of like the demons who took people to Hell in Ghost) lurching around, and the climactic "Alien Planet" world is an ugly, yellow-saturated wasteland. I did like the 1950s-style flying saucers, however.