A group of college friends head to Mexico for Spring Break, wooo! They have a grand old time till one of them, Olivia, meets a man who invites them to an abandoned church to play a game of truth or dare. However, a sinister force follows them home and forces them to play a deadly version of the children’s game.
You know that people are creatively bankrupt when they start making a party game scary and don’t turn it into a horror comedy (or at least not intentionally). Truth or Dare‘s laughable premise feels more like a Youtube skit or a short film than a feature-length film. It is clear that writer-director Jeff Wadlow didn’t have any more ideas past his initial improvised opening scene.
Let’s actually talk about the story. We start with a typical group of horror young people, they go somewhere, discover an evil thing and then they are killed off one by one. Very early on and as a big part of the marketing the film lays down the rules of the game: firstly, you have to answer once you are asked, if you don’t you die; secondly if you don’t tell the truth you die; thirdly if you don’t do the dare you die. Simple rules yes? Then we come to our monster itself. At first it seems to only be present in the mind of the person being asked, only physically manifesting when he takes control of the person being asked to kill them, another simple premise. But then the film consequently switches up the rules of the game on a whim and the actual properties of the force become more and more ambiguous and convoluted, sometimes possessing people when it wants, killing other people when it wants.
Then we get to the ending, (Spoilers I guess if you really care about the end of a film that nobody will be talking about after its opening weekend). So throughout the film is peppered little moral snippets. Like when our two leads, Olivia and Markie (though I swear they keep calling her murky), say things like “I’d choose you over the world” or one of the first non-deadly truth or dare truths was a moral question about killing one of Olivia’s close friends to save the entirety of Mexico. This pays off in the end when Olivia, instead of letting the game end with just her and Markie, sends a video out dooming the rest of the world to play this deadly game. It was an ending that similarly broke the rules of the universe, but it was one that was so insulting. It felt like the end to Cabin in the Woods, where the last two survivors let the rest of the world fall to ruin. But Cabin in the Woods that was a deconstruction of Horror tropes, while Truth or Dare is a dumb toothless parody of itself.
This is a horror film without scares mainly because it is so formulaic in the way that it builds tension with shadowy figures moving behind characters, only visible to the audience. It has the standard shock music stings to emphasise jump scares but the problem is that the thing that is the villain itself is objectively funny in its design. Do you remember the promotional video for the Alton Tower’s roller coaster, The Smiler? Well picture the guy who is already on the car at the beginning and his stupid face, that is what we have, a face that will only be scary for the special effects people who worked on it, because I am sure it will kill their career and those who are scared of bad Photoshop.
The characters are similarly bland, formulaic and irritating with no personality. While there is a montage of the group having fun on Spring break and you certainly sympathise with some of the characters, luke Sam Lemer’s pathetic Ronnie, you certainly do not empathise with them. Olivia and Markie are constantly at each other’s throats about Markie’s boyfriend Lucas, not to mention they kill or have a hand in killing a lot of people at the end. Lucas is a character vacuum devoid of any exciting personality, going along with whatever the plot wants him to do just because. Then we have Penelope and Tyson, who are just there to add to the body count. I think there was only one character that I felt empathy for, and that was Hayden Szeto’s Brad Chang, who is closeted to his dad, but is forced to come out by the demon, a coming out we never saw. Personally that would have been a great scene to have, but unfortunately the film cuts away and does not make use of it for a brief moment of character development.
Overall Truth or Dare is bad. It has bland characters you don’t empathise with. It has a ridiculous story and an awfully designed and excecuted villian. I would not even dare you to see Truth or Dare; it is a horror film that is inconsistent in its story and consistent in how bad it is.
You can watch Truth or Dare in cinemas now