13th Apr2018

‘Truth or Dare’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Lucy Hale, Violett Beane, Tyler Posey, Sophia Ali, Hayden Szeto, Landon Liboiron, Nolan Gerard Funk, Sam Lerner | Written by Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, Jeff Wadlow, Christopher Roach | Directed by Jeff Wadlow

Truth-or-Dare-poster

The latest low budget horror flick from Blumhouse Productions is about a demonically possessed game of Truth Or Dare that kills off its players. If you can get past that admittedly ridiculous premise, there are just enough creepy chills and thrills to make this worth your while, even if it never quite manages the supernatural horror of something like It Follows (an obvious influence).

Directed by Jeff Wadlow, the film centres on socially conscious college student Olivia (singer-slash-actress Lucy Hale), who’s coerced into accompanying her friends on a spring break trip to Mexico. After a drunken night at a bar, Olivia falls in with Carter (Landon Liboiron), who suggests that she and her friends follow him to an abandoned Mexican mission (never a good sign), where they can continue the party.

Once there, Carter suggests a game of Truth Or Dare, which rapidly turns sour when trouble-making Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk) asks Olivia’s best friend Markie (The Flash’s Violett Beane) if she’s aware that Olivia is in love with her boyfriend (Tyler Posey as Lucas). However, that turns out to be the least of their problems. When they head back to college, Olivia discovers that the game has followed them home and that a demonic entity is forcing each of them to continue playing, with deadly consequences for anyone who either refuses a dare or tells a lie.

The film’s creepiest touch is the way the demon possesses innocent bystanders in order to speak to the players. In a cheap but effective CGI trick (described within the film as looking “like a messed up Snapchat filter”), the bystanders’ eyes go black and their faces contort into a twisted, devilish grin.

In addition, the film is acutely aware of the pleasures of the pick-’em-off genre and Wadlow stages a number of suitably grisly death scenes, augmented with some impressively nasty sound design work. To that end, the film might not make you scream, but you’ll certainly do plenty of wincing.

The lead performances are nicely judged. Hale has a fresh faced appeal that serves her well, while Beane brings a subtly self-destructive edge to her role as Markie and Posey is effective as the stuck-in-the-middle boyfriend. The characterisation on the rest of the players may be paper-thin, but the film makes up for it with the emotional damage it inflicts on the central trio – the game knows everything about them and exploits that information for maximum impact.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems. For one thing, even the scriptwriters can’t muster up a plausible reason for the characters to even play the game in the first place – the way it’s described, it sounds like no fun at all (especially given the secrets everyone is keeping), and yet everyone happily joins in. For another, the film ends up sending some rather dubious messages in terms of the characters that get killed off, while an attempt to introduce an ethical conundrum angle is both poorly conceived and badly handled.

Ultimately, Truth Or Dare delivers exactly what it promises – a bit of spooky teens-in-peril fun on a Friday night, with a few dashes of nastiness thrown in for good measure. And you have to admire a film that so brazenly demands a sequel with its final scene.

*** 3/5

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