UK Release Date: 13th April 2018
Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writer: Michael Reisz, Jillian Jacobs, Chris Roach, Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Lucy Hale, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Tyler Posey, Sophia Ali, Nolan Gerard Funk, Landon Liboiron
Synopsis: A group of teenagers who play Truth or Dare in an abandoned Mexican church find that the game follows them home, and it’s deadlier than it was before.
Last year, Blumhouse reinvigorated the slasher genre with the enjoyable silliness of Happy Death Day, which was Scream with a side order of Groundhog Day. For its latest movie Truth or Dare, the studio is trying its hand at giving the methodical, supernatural killing of the Final Destination franchise a new lick of paint for the social media generation – and it’s all based around a misguided drinking game. There are occasional good ideas lurking in amongst the genre tropes, but it’s all a bit toothless for the most part.
The film is directed and co-written by Jeff Wadlow, who was last seen at the helm of the divisive superhero comedy sequel Kick-Ass 2. It’s a threadbare horror premise, but the sort of idea that could have comfortably powered a scary movie with a bit of invention. The film starts with comedy-perfect college girl Olivia (Lucy Hale), who makes YouTube videos about building homes in third world countries. She is duped by best friend Markie (Violett Beane) into going with her and other friends to Mexico, where they get drunk and take approximately four million selfies.
Olivia then meets an attractive bloke at the bar and, once he’s bought her a margarita, she promptly forgets all of her principles, agreeing for them to go to an abandoned church where they play Truth or Dare. The bloke eventually admits that he lured them there as part of a curse, but the friends think nothing of it, until they are supernaturally forced to play the game when they get back home. It appears that an evil spirit has possessed the game and it’s not going to rest until either all of the friends are dead, or hidden secrets have torn their relationships apart.
The premise is a simple horror idea, at least initially. Unfortunately, it’s full of logical flaws and there are so many easy ways out that the script, which has four credited writers, is forced to introduce new rules to plug the gaps like someone trying to keep water in a colander. There are some innovative methods of getting into the “truth or dare” sequences, but the violence itself lacks that same level of invention and the game hinges too often upon soap opera revelations about the characters, who are so thinly drawn that none of those revelations hold much weight.
Wadlow seems keen to use the premise as a sideways critique of modern teenagers, who are obsessed with social media and turn to their Macbooks and a Google search bar whenever they need to find out more about their predicament. The eerie grimace that happens to people when proposing the killer question is described as looking “like a messed-up Snapchat filter” and the climax also hinges upon a pivotal use of social media. In this sense, the film is left looking inferior to Blumhouse’s Unfriended, which took a far more innovative approach to the online world.
Much of the failure of Truth or Dare comes down to the simple fact that its characters are not pleasant to be around. They’re all pretty awful to each other and the performances – from actors you almost certainly recognise from TV roles in the likes of Teen Wolf, The Flash and Pretty Little Liars – are bland and lacking in personality. The usual horror tropes are followed through, from the second act exposition dump to the notion of plucky teens trying to outwit a supernatural force. By the time it culminates with a character you suspected was horrible doing something even more horrible than you expected, this has cemented itself as a real damp squib. That’s the truth, and I dare you not to see it.
Pop or Poop?
The consistency of Blumhouse is cast into severe question by Truth or Dare, which squanders its potentially interesting premise for a bland horror adventure. The characters are a collection of intolerable teen clichés, held together by bonds of friendship that are shaky and unsafe even before the supernatural forces and their weird Snapchat filter faces begin to mess things up.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.