TRUTH OR DARE?
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Year of release: 2018
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 100 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both I would assume once released in physical form
Tagline: "The producer of Happy Death Day and Get Out invite you to play", "They are dying to play", "The truth will set you free" and "Tell the truth or die, Do the dare or die, Refuse to play and die".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: This is not a slasher in the traditional sense with splashes of thriller, horror and comedy mixing with some traditional slasher ingredients and has more in common with the likes of the Final Destination franchise or 999-9999. Seeing that I plan to look at these more supernatural style horror/slashers at some point it is only fair that I cover this one as well.
A bunch of college friends visit Mexico for spring break where one of their number Olivia meets charming stranger Carter in a bar. After Olivia's group are about to leave Carter suggests an afterparty at a location he knows a short distance away which turns out to be an old monastery. He initiates a game of truth or dare which once underway creates tension in the group. To make things worse he chooses truth on his turn when asked of his intentions with Olivia. He proceeds to say something about manipulating Olivia and using her to bring people to the location in order for them to die if it saves himself. Everyone is puzzled by his words and even more so when he wonders off into the night. Before doing so he confides to Olivia that the game is real ans she and her friends must do the dares or tell the truth or die. Olivia is shaken but the others don't think much about it and forget about it once returning home. They are reminded however when Olivia is forced to reveal a harmful truth in public followed by one of the males dying after backing out of a dare. It becomes apparent they are being forced to play the game by a sinister supernatural force that seems intent on spreading mayhem and death. As the bodycount grows Olivia and her surviving friends try to find a way to put an end to the cursed game.
Good points: The three main characters in Olivia, Markie and Lucas carried the story along very well and for me were a big part of making this an enjoyable experience. I liked the drama of the strained friendship between Markie and Olivia and the love triangle was interesting involving Lucas. The truth or dare game played in nicely with that. All three in particular Olivia as the final girl were likeable I'd say and I'd also include Brad in that bracket as well. I'd read some negative reviews which said all of the characters were unlikeable but I didn't find that to be the case at all. Even the more unpleasant ones in the group like Ronnie and Tyson were entertaining. The acting was very good as well I thought. Certainly compared to some of the really low budget B movie type slashers I see the acting in a more high profile film like this is like Shakespeare by comparison.
The storyline concept is quite original and very cleverly used throughout the film. Not being a straight slasher it has more scope than most to come up with something a bit different and though I was a bit skeptical of the idea going in I thought it was handled expertly. Many of the truths and dares are very imaginative and also do a great job of sewing tension and discord among the surviving members. The cursed game actually has a bit of a backstory to it as well which is a welcome touch. Nice to see them make the effort to explain things properly.
The ending surprised me a little as it was more downbeat than I was expecting for more of a tame teen movie. As with the story in general it was quite clever as well tying in with two things established near the start with one of the characters. In particular I liked how it tied in with something said by one of the girls in the truth or dare game with Carter at the beginning.
Another thing I wasn't sure of from what I had seen in the trailer going in was the big smiles thing the characters develop or see at times when it is their turn to play the game. It looked a bit silly I thought but I actually softened to it as the film went on and grew to like it. It is something quite trendy and topical being a Snapchat filter type effect and though it can't substitute for a good old fashioned slasher mask it's better than nothing. Seeing that we never actually see the demon behind the whole thing in physical form the Snapchat filter is an effective way of letting us know he is in full effect and in control of the person in question.
Bad Points: The only real disappointing aspect to this is that it is very tame with hardly and blood. They don't show much of the deaths at all and it definitely feels like something that was made for the middle teen audience in mind. As disappointing as this is for most of us I suppose this poses a conundrum when it is known a film is going to get a cinematic release as they must be mindful of trying to get as many people in to see it as they can to increase profits. As such the blood/gore often gets sacrificed in order to secure a lower age rating. When a film is known to be going straight to video though I guess they don't have to worry about it so can throw buckets of blood around without fear. It does mean that in this case it is even less scary than it otherwise could have been.
Though the first few deaths were good and very inventive as were the truths and dares throughout I felt the deaths themselves trailed off as it went on and became much more typical and straight forward being either shootings or stabbings.
It was a little too convenient that Olivia and Lucas were able to find the house of the survivor of the monastery massacre so easily. Also maybe it was slightly unlikely the policeman would be so quick to let Olivia go after she tricked him with the water thing so that she could take the picture. In reality she probably would have been held and then questioned for ages even if there was no charge. Similar as well I suppose with Carter/Sam turning out to live so close so that they had no trouble visiting him. Not that these things disrupt anything though and indeed they are kind of necessary condensing moves that keep things flowing swiftly.
Verdict: I wasn't expecting too much as this film has so far garnered a lot of negative feedback. Due to that and as it is not a full slasher but rather a hybrid film with slasher elements I almost passed on it but decided to go and see it in the end and I'm glad I did. I very much enjoyed it and found it to have a clever story full of twists and turns that held my interest up until a strong finale. The lack of violence and gore does hurt it but other than that I felt it was top notch.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Woman in shop in Mexico: Burnt alive by Giselle.
2) Ronnie: Slips on pool balls and falls off pool table hitting his head. Possibly broke his neck or was just killed from the impact of the fall.
3) Tyson: Sticks a pen into his eye and then bashes his head into a wall knocking the pen further in.
4) Penelope: Shot by Giselle when she jumps in front of Olivia.
5) Giselle: Is forced to turn the gun on herself and shoot herself in the head after she fails her dare.
6) Brad: Shot in the back by police officer.
7) Tom/Carter: Stabbed by Lucas.
8) Lucas: Forced to cut own throat after he refuses his dare.