Director: Jeff Wadlow
Screenplay: Michael Reisz, Jillian Jacobs, Chris Roach, Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Landon Liboiron
Runtime: 100 Minutes
A cursory glance into the production history of Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare pretty much tells you much of what you should know about the finished product. Bought as a title without a script or concept to work from first, director Jeff Wadlow was hired to direct the film after spitballing an opening scene to producers based on the title alone, only then the construction of the plot preceding this take form.
That shouldn’t be an immediate indication of its quality, but it’s a strong marker of the haphazard thinking that has gone behind the depressingly generic misfire from the otherwise reliable production house.
The premise alone is stupid on its face without even having seen the final film, where a harmless game of Truth or Dare among friends turns deadly when someone (or something) begins to kill those who tell a lie or refuse the dare.
Now, this is certainly something that could be used to decent effect by placing the blame of the bloodshed and broken friendships squarely at the feet of the millennial teens. Who have brought this upon themselves and are allowing their petty feuds and adolescent emotional instabilities to override their better judgements. Maybe just having a small and contained story in which the escalating discomfort and horror comes entirely from their own doing.
Unfortunately, not only are these college age kids who are mostly just irritating and immature when they’re not fitting wish fulfilment levels of stereotypical behaviour, but the supernatural aspect that is forcing them to play the game is ultimately the thing that breaks the whole film.
Not only does the supernatural spectre’s origin come from a completely absurd place when it’s revealed, but nothing about the nature of its setup or rules make any sense and change on a whim to engineer scenarios and drag out the runtime. Such as an arbitrary system where once two truths have been asked a dare must be taken because otherwise they’d all just be asking truths and there would be fewer stakes. It keeps rewriting itself as it goes on, and you can just tell how linearly this was written as it stumbles over its own feet trying to move forward.
The eerie manifestations of the supernatural evil transform familiar faces into a twisted, digitally altered smile that looks like a Snapchat filter (a character literally describes it as such, and when it’s not doing that it’s pushing Facebook into the film as an actual recurring plot point). It’s an unsettling image, but like everything else, it doesn’t really make sense.
Even the deaths themselves could have been worked around to make it somewhat appealing in a Final Destination manner, but they’re uniformly dull and unimaginative. The only pleasure to be had really comes from the absurdity and leftfield nature of some of the dares, one of which involves forcing someone to walk along the edge of the roof while finishing a bottle of vodka. On some level, they delve into the characters own fears and desires through the questions, but it doesn’t engage with any of the subtexts because the characters are too uninteresting and broad to make it work.
Given some effort, Truth or Dare could have been another Happy Death Day. But it isn’t anywhere near as amusing as it could be, and while the daftness of its premise may harbour some ironic chuckles the film doesn’t seem like it’s in on the joke, with the filmmakers and actors playing it as straight and safe as any number of the tedious slasher movies of the 90s.