It’s a hard time to be a fan of Theatrical Horror releases. Yes, that may be a hard pill to swallow, what with the likes of IT, Get Out and even Happy Death Day performing better than everyone could’ve imagined. For each of those films, there’s dozens released simply to shore up a small profit. Call it a saturated market, call it bad filmmaking, but the landscape is so diluted that even a marginally good film is celebrated. More often than not though, they’re total duds like Truth or Dare.
A group of college students heads to Mexico for one last Spring Break, before they all graduate and the idea of drinking together in a foreign country wears off altogether. Not content to merely get hammered their last night, they opt to find something more exciting and flashy. Thankfully the only member of their group initially hesitant to go on the trip (she had Habitat for Humanaties lined-up) gets chatted up by the kindly Carter (Landon Liboiron). He suggests she and her friends follow him up to a casually abandoned monastery for an adventure they won’t soon forget. When he reveals the plan is to play a game of truth or dare, everyone mocks him before acquiescing for at least one round. When it comes to his turn though, he’s quick to cop that not all is as it seems and he has lured them into a game which will kill them if they don’t play it.
Events then jump a week or two as the game follows Olivia and her friends back home. What Carter forgot to warn everyone about is that the “game” likes to play tricks on participants. Whenever it’s time for a player’s turn someone near them appears possessed, or as if they have a crappy snapchat filter of the Joker posted on their face. No one else can see this at all, so when forced to act out a dare or blurt out the truth, they’re doing so to a room of people who have no idea what’s occurring. Of course they have the option to refuse to participate, but the consequence of that is death, something none of the characters actively want.
Saying “characters” is sort of a misnomer, seeing as each individual is less a person, than a necessary stereotype to parade about. One’s defining trait is that they’re a day drinker and nothing more. That’s the level at work here. None of it matters as they’re all pawns to be moved around until the film can find a way to kill them off.
Part of what contributes to the hodge-podge nature of Truth or Dare is the involvement of four credited writers, working from at least three different versions of the script. This wouldn’t feel like such a major fault, if only the seams weren’t so constantly visible. There’s constant talk of the players “following the rules”, but the film takes an overly convoluted approach to this. Just as everyone is getting their footing, the game bends over backwards to change things up, never in an organic fashion. Worse yet, the film plays these alterations as smart and clever, constantly winking at the fact that it’s getting away with something.
“What about the kills then?” you may ask. They’re nothing to write home about. That’s because the noose around Truth or Dare‘s neck, is that of the PG-13 rating. Never has there been a movie more eagerly desperate to be something it’s not. Be it language, violence, or nudity, everything is “almost” seen at an angle, but nothing more. That makes sense though, as it so keenly focuses on paying lip service to the people who are likely to help it turn a profit: teenagers. The best way to reach them, the film posits, is to make them feel like they’re rebelling, while actually just being teased. Time after time the filmmakers cheat to “almost” show something grizzly or titillating, yet it’s only slight of hand. The majority of the kills are done so quickly that they have no lasting effect. To make matters worse it spends 10 minutes setting up a characters death, only for them to survive a trial….just to accidentally sacrifice themselves two minutes later. It’s truly one of the oddest things to witness.
If anyone tells you to see the film, be wary of their intentions. There’s a good chance they’ve been dared to do so and are trapped in the throes of the game itself, or a teenager. Either way, it’s likely they’re doing so, in order to have someone share the pain of watching this annoying endeavor. Stay at home and rent Final Destination for the 10th time. Not only will you save money, but you’ll have better piece of mind.