Truth or dare? Dare. I dare you not to see this movie. Truth. What shouldn’t you see? This movie.
Truth or Dare is the newest abomination from Blumhouse Productions: The studio that brought you great movies like Get Out, The Gift, and Whiplash and also brought you terrible movies like Ouija, Paranormal Activity (2, 3, 4, and The Marked Ones) and Benji (yes, the one about the cute dog).
Can you guess which of these binary categories Truth or Dare falls into? Hint: it’s the second one.
Truth or Dare is the next in a series without apparent beginning or end of bad horror slasher movies. The conceit of Truth or Dare is that a demon begins to possess a game of Truth or Dare played by college students. There are rules to this game, on penalty of death. When your turn comes, you must choose truth or dare. If you do not, the demon possesses you, and you die in some horrific or grotesque way. If you choose truth and lie, you die. If you choose dare and do not complete the dare, you die.
Our hapless college students—whose characters matter about as much as any character in a horror movie—are sufficiently attractive, stereotypical, and stupid as the movie needs them to be at any given time.
They are tricked into playing the game by a certainly creepy guy in a certainly creepy monastery in Mexico. Even the characters of the movie object to this situation, but are convinced to sit in this dilapidated and spooky church through the unsatisfactory writing that serves as dialogue in this movie.
Here we have our movie. These young friends begin to realize what’s going on, just as they begin to be picked off, one by one, each death more jarring and ridiculous than the last. Essentially, this movie plays out pretty much exactly how you would expect. People die, secrets are revealed, vain attempts at twists are made, and stupid decisions abound.
“I can’t trust you ever again!” one character shouts for what seems like the fifth time before storming out of the room only to be drawn back into the movie through “heartfelt” pleading or by the sudden realization that people are dying—a realization that this character has already had more than once.
One thing Truth or Dare has mastered, however, is the entirely original and ceaselessly refreshing “turn jumpscare.” In such a scene, a character will find themselves alone—in a room, an alley, or some other third place. The music will go quiet and the character will stop in their tracks. They will turn around, in search of some noise or movement they’ve sensed behind them. Gasp! There’s nothing there! Reassured, the character will turn back aro—Oh no! It’s the scary demon, possessing someone! Cue loud violin notes and flinches from the audience.
As such, Truth or Dare is a horror movie, in some loose definition of the word. The movie isn’t scary through the nature of fear, or the idea of something like this really happening, or even through true fear. Instead, Truth or Dare is a horror movie of jump-scares and scary results of a dumb gimmick. It’s perfectly alright to enjoy a movie like this—jump scares are a source of interesting adrenaline in a fairly controlled environment, and most people enjoy countless bad movies (Titanic, Love Actually, American Sniper). But, it must be stated that Truth or Dare is certainly a bad movie. The movie contains very few redeeming qualities, aside from the entirely serviceable acting by the characters. These actors do a fine job—there aren’t noticeably bad line-readings or excessive chewing-of-scenery. This is an impressive feat for a bad horror movie, but it does not save Truth or Dare from itself.
Ultimately, Truth or Dare appears and feels like an idea for a cheap horror movie that was conjured up at some 11th hour of a production company meeting. “What can we turn into a horror movie that hasn’t already been done in some noticeable way?” Dolls (Child’s Play), mirrors (Ouija), video chat (Unfriended), and party games (Would You Rather?) had already been done. “Party games, you say? How about a game of Truth or Dare that kills people?”
Featured Image by Blumhouse Productions