Truth Or Dare
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Screenwriter: Michael Reisz, Jillian Jacobs, Chris Roach, and Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Landon Liboiron
Distributor: Blumhouse | Universal Pictures
Release Date: April 13, 2018
The concept of adapting a harmless game into a film is nothing new. In fact, it has been done many times before, though its success can be met with varying degrees. That being said, we have reached a new level of low now that we are going for schoolyard games. Blumhouse’s Truth Or Dare tries to mirror the same success of Ouija using the production house’s low-budget formula. And try as the film might, it never reaches those same levels of fright. It desperately tries to scare its audience with the thought of this game haunting us that through its bad dialogue it becomes an unintentional comedy. Not really sure if that is what director Jeff Wadlow intended. But the film lands in between that gray area of its so good that it’s bad but at the same time it’s just flat-out bad.
My full review here below.
We get a small intro about how the game plays its players, forcing one of them to do things they would, dare I say, would not dare to do. It’s then we cut to charitable Olivia (Lucy Hale), who is coerced by her best friend Markie (Violett Beane) to go on one last Spring Break trip to Mexico where they could indulge in all their vices. They bring their friends along as well. Lucas (Tyler Posey), Markie’s boyfriend; Brad (Hayden Szeto), who uses the trip to hide from his homophobic father; Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk), a lecherous med student who funds his tuition with fake prescriptions; Penelope (Sophia Taylor Ali), who is too drunk to make any decision for herself without her boyfriend Tyson around; and Ronnie (Sam Lerner), the dirty frat boy.
We see just how rowdy their party can be through social media filters and hashtags that describe what will obviously be their final moments. But they will regret their last day in Mexico when Olivia is convinced by a “white knight,” Carter (Landon Liboiron), to take her friends to an abandoned mission in the coastal outskirts of Mexico. Carter suggests keeping the party going by playing a simple game of Truth or Dare, and the group entertains the idea by playing the game in its most childish form. However, Carter reveals that there is more to this game, and the reason why he brought the group here is that the game is cursed and the only way he can stay alive is to bring new players in.
Not convinced, Olivia and her friends go back home slightly disappointed that they could not end their vacation on a happy note. But soon, strange things start to happen. They start to see Truth or Dare on party invites, written on desks, on graffiti, and through people with faces that look like a “freaky snapchat filter.” But it becomes all too real when Olivia’s friends start to die. One by one, they start to realize that if they do not play the game, they die.
So Truth or Dare is just a bad horror film where idiots are doing idiot things because they are idiots – thanks, Archer. The film tries to have audiences care for Olivia, Markie, and Lucas by giving them sympathetic arcs. But their dialogue is not nearly juicy enough for us to care, and because it feels a lot like something that comes straight from a teenage soap opera show on basic cable, the scares are flat and we aren’t phased about some of the character deaths. And a large part of those deaths come from characters you do not care about. In fact, you might find yourself asking, why they didn’t die any sooner. The only one with any real depth and an arc is Brad, who is forced to come out to his father. In fact, there is a genuinely good moment between the two which I wish the film had more of.
While one would think it would be easier for these players to keep choosing Truth to stay alive, the script from director Jeff Wadlow and co-writers Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, and Christopher Roach throws just enough curveballs to keep the game going so that its players don’t keep choosing Truth. However, its execution is what will have you rolling your eyes. Sure the Dares can provide scares, very weak ones at that, but we learn a lot about these characters when the game forces them to reveal dark secrets. Secrets that supposedly would kill another person if they ever knew about it. It’s just another attempt to keep the film going when it knows it should already stop.
This is what makes the film’s tone all over the place. It cannot decide if it wants to be a horror or if it wants to be a teenage drama. Though, judging by the execution, it’s more of the latter. That’s why the scares do not work. It’s all prefaced by an insurmountable amount of teenage drama. There is a love triangle between Olivia, Markie, and Tyson that tries to force them to make the difficult choice between truth or dare. Whichever one they choose will likely hurt them physically or emotionally. The scares are cheap at best. Don’t let those freaky faces or calculated scare music fool you. It just does not work.
So much of this is a practice in making good decisions and being a good judge of character. Even if you were to throw that out the window and suspend disbelief, a large amount of the film is just coincidental. It tries so hard to be a conventional Blumhouse horror film game by turning a simple premise into a film with a low production budget. Sure the game can “scare you” when it appears at the player’s most vulnerable moments. And the drama between Olivia and Markie, with Brad’s limited but very sympathetic arc, is enough to keep you engaged. But it’s not enough to keep this game going. But it sure as hell is more than enough to make you want the game to end.