Plot: Taryn (Freya Tingley) is a high school senior on the brink of a lot of huge decisions, where to go to college, what degree to pursue, and where her life should head in general after high school is over. She is intelligent and aware, but the pressure of her situation has taken a toll to an extent, as she is a little weary and her grades have dipped a little, threatening her track career. Her social status isn’t elite, but she’s not an outcast either, though she dislikes most of the popular girls. She meets new girl Nina (Alex Steele) under strange circumstances, but the two strike up a fast friendship. Nina was passed out in a bathroom stall when Taryn first encountered her, but Nina revealed she wasn’t in any kind of danger. As she later tells Taryn, she was playing the choking game, cutting off her oxygen supply until she passed out and in the process, getting a euphoric high and a few seconds off away from the world’s pressures. This concept appeals to Taryn, but she is worried about potential risks, so she resists joining in Nina’s game, at least until she finds herself breaking down under all the stress. As she is drawn into this dangerous game, will Taryn find out the risks are much higher than she thinks?
Entertainment Value: After “the choking game” became national news with numerous teens deaths credited to the trend, Lifetime swooped in to give us this tale of woe about what can happen when we tempt fate. While this plays out like a cautionary tale, the movie doesn’t take cheap shots at those who explore the game, which was a welcome surprise. Instead, we have Taryn as our lead and she is smart, ambitious, and seems to have a level head, but the pressures of the transition from high school to “real life” have worn down her psyche. She seeks out the game for escape, not pleasure, though Nina is on the opposite side of those intentions. In other words, The Choking Game shows that all kinds of teens were involved in this dangerous game and makes a point that parents need to stay vigilant, even if their children are studious and otherwise make educated choices in life. At the same time, it also does sensationalize the process involved, almost turning it into a ritual of sorts and by the end, we are led to believe that almost everyone at Taryn’s school is involved in the game. But it wouldn’t be Lifetime without some overly dramatic elements, so no harm there. This one has all the drama, parental panic, and mean girl traits you’d expect from a Lifetime movie about high school, so for fans of the Lifetime style, this one is well recommended.
No nakedness. The movie does turn the game into a fetish type process, but that’s the extent of the sexual elements. Taryn throws herself at her crush while riding a high from the game, but he turns her down. No blood. The game’s process could be tense for some viewers however, especially when we are shown some of the darker outcomes toward the finale. The dialogue has some fun moments, with a good amount of drama, mean girl talk, sudden emotional outbursts, dramatic parenting, and after school special style moral lessons all on deck. Not much in terms of home run lines or quotable dialogue, but the writing keeps things interesting and provides a steady flow of the Lifetime style elements we want here. As far as craziness, the amped up after school special feel is epic, but this one sticks close to the Lifetime formula. And with a more serious tone than most, there’s not much room for wild theatrics or over the top melodrama, but hey, its still a movie about teen girls choking each other, right?
Overall Insanity: 3/10