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John’s Horror Corner: Would You Rather (2012), the most family-friendly torture porn flick ever released

August 11, 2013

You see this poster and you think “this is gonna’ be SERIOUS!”  But it’s not.  And the scene depicted above…easiest eye injury to watch on film EVER.

MY CALL:  Intended as a brutal, cruel installment to the torture porn subgenre, it felt like the intensity was declawed, domesticated and rendered family-friendly.  However, at times the character dynamic in this ridiculous scenario makes the movie at least watchable, although still falling short of recommendable.  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCHRed Room (1999) and Series 7 (2001) both pit regular people, some more reluctant than others, against one another–to do heinous things to one another.

Here’s another poster.  This one looks as hokey and unserious as the movie therein.

Iris (Brittany Snow; Prom Night, Nip/Tuck) is a good person with a good heart who finds herself in a difficult situation.  Her parents are dead, she has no money and no job, and she is left to care for her terminally ill brother.  Philanthropist Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs; Lurking Fear, The Pit and the Pendulum) offers Iris an opportunity to change her life in the form of an invitation to a dinner party that offers a solution to all of her foreseeable problems, financial or otherwise.  Upon arrival, Iris finds herself among similarly desperate individuals all looking to make some money.  Basically, this is Dinner for Schmucks if the schmucks were financially desperate and the hosts wanted to morally bankrupt them one sadistic challenge at a time.

The guests include a mix of transients, gamblers, young and old, able and wheelchair-bound, friendly and unfriendly.  Completely out of left field, one of them is played by porn star Sasha Grey.  But the real wild card in this rated-R truth or dare is going to be the sweet, naive old lady in the wheelchair.  What is she going to do to people?  What are people going to do to her?

Jeffrey Combs basically plays a rich jerk who likes to ruin (ahem, END) people’s lives.

It starts out with mean-spirited intentions–masked as helping people–in the form of paying a vegetarian to eat steak and fois gras and coercing an alcoholic to binge drink fine scotch. But they quickly graduate to things like “would you rather electrocute yourself or Iris?”  Then lashings, stabbings, drowning and some other seemingly mundane, poorly executed,  unshocking punishments.  Even things that should have been hard to watch (in the hands of a different director) were presented in subdued, PG-13 form. Really, I could watch this with my grandmother.  She’s seen Goodfellas and The Godfather, both of which have more scares, shocks and brutality than this.

No. Actually I’d rather not.

Iris is clearly meant to serve as the audience’s moral compass.  But I never found myself rooting for her, nor caring about her or any of the other characters…except for maybe the transient, selfish Amy (Sasha Grey), the first one who realized how to get out of this alive.  In fact, from the start Amy really embraced the concept and celebrated the challenges as a malevolent force.

Sasha Grey as Amy

Fledgling director David Guy Levy likely intended this to be a brutal, cruel installment to the torture porn subgenre.  However, I felt that the intensity was declawed.  I felt no suspense.  But I did enjoy watching the character dynamic as people tried to rationalize their “would you rather” options.  A task that, again, Amy really owned.  So while I was disappointed by the near gorelessness, watching the “game” still offered sufficient entertainment.

A major shock was that the best performance wasn’t by horror king Jeffrey Combs or Pitch Perfect (2012) favorite Brittany Snow.  The only convincing character was Sasha Grey’s coarse portrayal of Amy.  But there were no shocks from schlock, gore, moral corruption, torture, cruelty or even the lame attempt a surprise twist ending.  Oh, and the old, sweet naïve lady in the wheelchair?  Totally under-, or even un-utilized; mishandled by too much restraint while directing a film in which there should be no restraint!  What a waste.

Laaaaame!

If you are looking for jaw-drops, you won’t find them in Would You Rather.  I would only recommend this to someone who watches no fewer than four horror movies per week.  Really.  Like four.  As in, you probably systematically try to watch all horror ever anyway and won’t listen to me as I try to warn you away.

The worst movie poster I could find (above).  I wish this was the advertised image on Amazon.  Then I wouldn’t have watched it.  I would have never watched anything with such a bad poster.  Doesn’t this poster make you “want” the movie to awful?

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