Review: Truth or Dare

An exercise in production line horror film making, Truth or Dare suffers mainly from four writers who are deeply cynical about everything to do with it. The characters are all uniformly awful, the script thinks its audience are idiots and the gimmick is never fully exploited. What results is a lack of ambition movie that has only a handful of genuinely exciting moments.

In the stock standard ‘line-em-up-and-pick-em-off-one-by-one’ impossibly good looking college students horror trope, writers Jeff Wadlow (who also directs), Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz (whose story this is based off), and Christopher Roach deliver Truth or Dare – about the famed drinking game now possessed by a demon that forces you to play until it kills you (either by refusal or lying). What’s so surprising about it is how flat and ugly the result is.

It’s final spring break for friends Olivia (Lucy Hale) – the ecofriendly, moral high ground best-friend-to-the-end heroine, Markie (Violett Beane) – the strong-slutty-sultry-emotional-bestie, her boyfriend Lucas (Tyler Posey) – the quiet-broodier-snaggy-world’s-greatest-catch, Brad (Hayden Szeto) – the token Asian-gay-guy, Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk) – the-arrogant-rich-ambitious-self centred-ass, and Penelope (Sophia Ali) – the diversity-by-focus-group-high-functioning-alcoholic, and they’re off to spend it in Mexico. Whilst there Olivia befriends Sam (Landon Liboiron) who invites the gang to an abandoned mission for more drinks and a game of Truth or Dare. When Sam reveals that the only reason he brought them to the mission was to pass on the curse and save his own life, the group desert him and head back to California. Yet something has come with them and it’s not long before a supernatural force starts playing with them with lethal capabilities.

Sounds intriguing and a lot of fun. Conceptually it is, but Wadlow cannot engineer anything more than derivative sequences marred by deeply cynical dialogue, excruciating forced exposition that signposts everything to come well before its due to happen, populated by a wall of deeply unlikeable characters.

None of these characters are interesting, nor do they possess many particularly honourable traits to make you care about them. And, outside of all the problematic choices this rushed screenplay makes (I still can’t believe that 4 people had a hand in this), it’s the central character of Olivia that is the film’s biggest problem. She is the most incongruous, hypocritical and unlikeable of them all, yet posed as the ‘hero’ of the piece.

The supernatural elements of the story are never really given enough plot coverage to make such a high concept idea work but the film is less interested in developing this than delivering bloodless PG-13 visual scares. It’s only success being a drunken rooftop walk that is quite effective.

Sporting no less than 4 pans across the ‘Welcome To Mexico’ sign when they cross the border, it’s a signal of the sheer lack of ambition this production has. It sprawls through its hook for 80 minutes, then rams its explanation into a 10 minute climax that runs well out of steam before it begins. It’s like ‘we’ve run out of ideas, umm, how do we finish it quickly? Oh, that’ll do’

A film that could easily be called Shittiest Best Friend. Ever. Truth or Dare is a disposable, cynical misstep in the horror revival of recent years.