I'd seen this movie multiples times in video stores (remember those?) and on Redbox. Looking at the cover, I felt like I knew exactly what would happen. Sometimes you can judge a book by it's cover and a movie by it's poster. Other times, you're completely wrong. This movie fell somewhere in between.
Gamebox 1.0 stars Nate Richert (Sabrina the Teenage Witch) as Charlie Colburn, a video game tester suffering from depression due to the loss of his girlfriend Kate, played by Danielle Fishel (Boy Meets World). One day, Nate receives a mysterious game console, one with technology never seen before. He is literally transported into a video game world where his memories provide the details. The heroine, Princess, is modeled after Kate and the villian, Ao Shun is modeled after the police officer that killed her. Nate goes through 3 levels in the game, Crime Spree, Zombie Land, and Alien Planet. Unfortunately, the sentient console refuses to let Nate exit the game and he soon falls into a coma. Will Nate be able to save the girl and save himself, or will Gamebox 1.0 claim another victim?
Gamebox 1.0 is an independent sci-fi/action movie with a little bit of horror. I say a little bit because while not entirely entrenched in the genre, it does have some horror-related scenes, references, and overtones. This movie has a pretty basic plot and you know what is going to happen. The movie gets bogged down in predictability and some serious plot holes; I might have missed it, but I have no idea why Nate received the package in the first place. And the name “Gamebox 1.0”? Really? Richert and Fishele actually put in good performances, which help save the movie from a painful fate. The effects and in-game footage can come off as cheap and cheesy, but that's kind of what makes it endearing. When you think about it, it looks exactly what you'd think real people in a video game world would look like.
If you're a fan of video games, you will definitely get a kick out of picking out the references and scenes to other games. I'm not a gamer, but I have enough knowledge to catch that the first level Crime Spree is clearly Gran Theft Auto. The second level Zombie Land recalls scenes from Night of the Living Dead and Evil Dead. The zombies themselves are not your typical, staggering zombies, but more frantic shadowy ninja zombies. I can let that slide because this isn't a zombie movie and video games like Resident Evil take liberties with the genre anyway. The final level Alien Planet reminds me of scenes from Starship Troopers, although I'm not sure that's what they were going for.
Plenty people have thought about actually being in a video game. If you're old enough, you may remember a show on Nickelodeon called Nick Arcade. Thankfully, the effects in Gamebox 1.0 are better than that, but only by modern standards. It's plot is predictable, but good performances from the two leads really help. The movie has a sort of after-school TV show charm, but maybe I think that because it stars people from Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and Boy Meets World. Gamebox 1.0 is a decent rental if you like video games or are nostalgic for fun TV shows.