Truth or Dare Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Blumhouse
Directed by Jeff Wadlow
Written by Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, Christopher Roach and Jeff Wadlow
2018, 100 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
UK release on 13th April 2018
Lucy Hale as Olivia Barron
Tyler Posey as Lucas Moreno
Violett Beane as Markie Cameron
Sophia Ali as Penelope Amari
One of horror cinema’s more curious quirks is its obsession with the childhood game of truth or dare. Your thirteen-year-old kid’s favourite bit of playground nonsense gets its latest horror adaptation (fourth, by my count), this time from shock factory Blumhouse. On the hunt for Spring Break thrills, a gang of American university students are tricked into a lethal round of truth or dare… one from which they may not escape with their lives. Think Liar Liar crossed with Final Destination.
If you’re thinking that the material sounds below Jason Blum and his house of classy yet populist horror movies, you might be right; there’s a reason most films with that title are swiftly forgotten about, and that’s because nobody over the age of thirteen cares about truth or dare. There’s also a reason that the protagonists of every horror film called Truth or Dare (four!) have to be forced into playing, and that’s because nobody over the age of thirteen wants to play truth or dare either. In fact, most thirteen-year-olds don’t even want to play truth or dare.
And so the first hurdle Jeff Wadlow’s movie has to get over is finding a convincing reason that a gang of adults would sit down to a game of truth or dare. While at Spring Break. In all fairness to its four credited screenwriters, none of their characters want to play either, most of them attempting to sabotage the game out of spite. But this game wants to be played, and the kids are presented with a choice – play or die. It’s It Follows, crossed with… also Final Destination.
When you put it like that, Truth or Dare doesn’t sound quite so bad. But it is. There are four films calledTruth or Dare, and this one is easily the worst. Every character speaks in brazenly obvious terms about who and what they are, walking around with the barrel of Chekhov’s gun halfway down their throat, firing off foreshadowing and exposition in place of real dialogue. There’s one particularly obvious exchange early on that I pegged out as typical Scriptwriting for Dummies foreshadowing, only to dismiss it as too ridiculous, even for a film called Truth or Dare. How little I knew. And that's not to mention the origins and rules of the premise, which are revealed in two of the worst exposition dumps ever seen in a mainstream film. Four writers, you say?
It’s a daft premise, and it only gets more daft whenever anyone says the words “truth or dare”. Which is often. So often that it would make an excellent drinking game. To its credit, once the game is in play, the film rarely slows down, and you’re never more than a few minutes away from the latest painful truth… or dare. It’s like, yes, Final Destination, without the invention or gore; while the game could strike at anytime, it’s remarkably unambitious, and the worst the dares ever get is a girl standing on the rooftop drinking vodka. The truths are marginally more successful, making a point about the lies we all live with – even the best of us – but marred in predictability thanks to the way the characters are written. Everyone harps on about their deepest, darkest secrets all the time, so it’s never a surprise when the game makes them ‘reveal’ them at the most inopportune moment. By no mean coincidence, its only effective revelation is the one the writers didn’t reveal to the audience beforehand, delivered at the most shattering moment for the characters involved.
Which is a shame, because there’s a good story structure, theme and ideas at play here, and even a handful of genuinely good shocks (including at least two legitimate jump scares). The CGI Trollface looks like a cheap, dumb Snapchat filter, but it is adequately unsettling and a constant highlight. And buried amidst the horrible dialogue and writing is Love, Simon, a subplot the film is so disinterested in that most of it takes place offscreen.
These are small redeeming factors, but there wasn’t a moment of the film’s runtime I didn’t spend hating Truth or Dare. Its truths aren’t remotely shocking, its dares pedestrian. It’s the worst mainstream horror film since Rings – a film it even shares its most ridiculous plot twist with – the worst Blumhouse film, and the worst film to be called Truth or Dare. It’s Final Destination for the Snapchat generation, and you couldn’t even dare me to watch it ever again.