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John’s Horror Corner: Truth or Dare (2018), another serviceably enjoyable Blumhouse film mixing It Follows (2014) and Final Destination (2000), but packing little punch.

July 29, 2018

MY CALL: This was decently entertaining, but honestly totally empty. I won’t recommend it, but I don’t regret buying it. MORE MOVIES LIKE Truth or Dare: For more weird horror “game” movies like this try Cheap Thrills (2013), Would You Rather (2012), Beyond the Gates (2016), 13 Sins (2014) and The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond (2009). Although I’d really only recommend the first two of that list… maybe just Cheap Thrills (2013).

NOTE: This review is of the UNRATED version. Although, I couldn’t tell.

Oh, thank God! Good characters! Not five minutes into this film and already I’m pleasantly surprised by the acting quality. No wooden characters blurting out one cliched self-expository proclamation after another about their troped-up jock, nerd, stoner or slutty selves. Just normal college students being normal non-catty friends. After a well-edited Mexican Spring Break vacation montage we readily assimilate to their fun nature and we’re prepared to perhaps actually care a bit about what happens to them.

After meeting a stranger at a club, they are invited for drinks at an abandoned venue to play a game of Truth or Dare. It’s playful and amusing enough, until this stranger (Landon Liboiron; Hemlock Grove, The Howling: Reborn, Altitude) reveals his intentions to pass the curse of the game onto Olivia (Lucy Hale; Scream 4) and her friends so that he may survive. Much as in It Follows (2014), our now uncursed perpetrator explains the rules of the deadly malady to its new players.

Back from vacation and back to class, they must now choose truth or dare when spectrally challenged, and do so unwaveringly, or die. At first the challenges are quite doable—even standard to the game. Show some strangers your junk; reveal something incriminating. But the truths and dares grow more dire, and so are the consequences.

Director Jeff Wadlow (Cry Wolf, Kick-Ass 2) is neither veteran nor rookie when it comes to horror, heavy-handed brutal violence or R-rated humor. The Truth or Dare demon communicates through illusions of Joker-smiling acolytes and possesses its unruly players to kill them in a sort of watered down Final Destination style. We see victims lit cruelly on fire, accidental neck breaks, eye gauges, self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and an off-screen slit throat. If that doesn’t sound very impressive, it’s because it isn’t.

The kills don’t pack much punch. Sorry. There’s nothing shocking or suspenseful about walking your roof while drinking a bottle of liquor on an infernal dare. And in a world of Saw films and a new great indie era for the genre, guns are weak sauce unless envelopes are pushed hard (more like The Purge). This film appeals to us more with its characters and the threat of death, than the actual death scenes themselves. And unfortunately, the final act takes a turn towards meaningless exposition dumps to hand-waive away a possible solution to this malady while cheapening the remaining characters. Sigh.

After our main characters’ introduction, there’s nothing particularly impressive about this film outside of its filmmakers’ proficiency and its basic ability to entertain on a low budget. It may not be Happy Death Day (2017) quality, but what Blumhouse films are? There are few of such caliber. That said, I’m not sure how a movie like this (i.e., a film reliant on random death scene scenarios) even could thrive on such a low budget without a well-thought gimmick.

But just when I thought all was squandered… stick around to the end. Maybe this can be salvaged. There’s a great closing twist!

 

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