The Movie Waffler New Release Review - TRUTH OR DARE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - TRUTH OR DARE

truth or dare movie review
A supernatural presence forces a group of students to play a deadly game of Truth or Dare.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow

Starring: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Nolan Gerard Funk, Landon Liboiron, Sophia Ali

truth or dare movie poster

Recent horror movies have successfully explored the idea of how willing their protagonists might be to place others in danger in order to escape their own predicament. In It Follows, the teenage heroine contracts a sexually transmitted curse that manifests itself as the figures of deceased people slowly following her every move, a curse that can only be broken by having sex and passing it on to her partner. Horror comedy Happy Death Day saw its bitchy anti-hero trapped in a Groundhog Day style loop in which every day ends with her death at the hands of a masked killer; when she figures a way to break the loop, she learns that it comes at the cost of someone else falling victim to the slasher. Blood-soaked Canadian indie Game of Death mines Grand Guignol thrills from a group of friends forced to kill 24 innocent people to save themselves from a curse enacted by an evil retro video game.

Director Jeff Wadlow's Truth or Dare is the third horror movie in the last five years to bear that title, and like the others (from 2013 and 2017, directed by Jessica Cameron and Nick Simon respectively), it revolves around the titular game, this time adding a 'curse' element that places it in a similar sub-genre to the likes of It Follows, Happy Death Day and Game of Death. That's where the comparisons end however, as Wadlow's film has none of the creepiness of It Follows, none of the charm or smarts of Happy Death Day, and none of the exuberant fun of Game of Death.

truth or dare movie

Truth or Dare presents us with a generic group of would be victims in its central gang of college buddies. There's the goody two shoes lead, Olivia (Lucy Hale); the promiscuous blond, Markie (Violett Beane); the 'nice guy' boyfriend of the latter, Lucas (Tyler Posey); a gay Asian (ticking two diversity boxes in one fell swoop), Brad (Hayden Szeto); and the usual jocks and bimbos. If you've seen more than one teen horror in the past you can easily predict the order in which this lot will meet their makers.

While on a Spring Break trip in mexico, the gang befriends an enigmatic stranger, Carter (Landon Liboiron), who convinces them to play a game of 'Truth or Dare', before revealing to Olivia that he did so as a means of passing on a curse to her gang. Olivia dismisses it as nonsense until she begins to experience strange visions of people's faces distorting like Guy Fawkes' masks, or as she describes it, "like some crazy snapchat filter," an unintentional admission on the film's part as to how cheap its effects look. When those who played the game in Mexico begin to die in what looks like a series of bizarre suicides, Olivia realises she and her friends are trapped in a deadly game of 'Truth or Dare', and must play by its increasingly dangerous rules to stay alive.

truth or dare movie

Four screenwriters are credited as having worked on Truth or Dare, which gives you some idea of how messy and unfocussed its script is. Rather than sticking to its relatively simple premise and keeping things straightforward, Truth or Dare spins a needlessly complicated plot, continuing to add new rules to its central conceit. What should have been a Final Destination style assemblage of elaborate, edge of the seat set-pieces is instead a collection of irritating scenes in which characters explain the plot to each other and the audience, over and over again.

The meat and potatoes of a movie of this kind - its kills - are completely uninspired and unmemorable here, and only one sequence, a nod to 1985's Cat's Eye involving a walk around the roof of a house, comes close to generating suspense. Wadlow's visual execution of his film's supernatural element is often confusing and contradictory, presenting the subjective perspective of the game's victims through objective shots. The face-distorting effect doesn't seem to bother some of those who witness it, nor does the fact that people begin speaking in equally distorted voices, making us question what information is intended solely for the viewer rather than the film's characters. Confused? You will be.

truth or dare movie

Truth or Dare adopts a light and breezy tone of the type you expect from this sort of generic teen sleepover fodder, which makes the cynical, shock value injection of some very serious and timely themes like homophobia, sexual assault and police shootings considerably jarring, especially given the film's dismissive, superficial attitude to such issues.

Truth or Dare has the bones of a compelling movie, but it adds too much fat and gristle with an overwritten, over-complicated script that quickly ties itself into knots trying to tell what should be a simple story. If made to play 'Truth or Dare' themselves, I suspect the filmmakers would be forced to admit they've made a turkey. I just hope nobody dares them to make a sequel. 

Truth or Dare is in UK/ROI cinemas April 13th.