Blumhouse Productions has helped produce some top tier, high quality, often fun, unique, and sometimes just downright scary horror films over the past decade – including 2017’s Academy Award winning Get Out – but unfortunately one of their latest releases, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, is none of those things.
Truth or Dare is best described as Final Destination meets the game of truth or dare – except without the fun, silliness and often crazy and over the top deaths that made Final Destination as popular as it was. No, Truth or Dare makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously for the story it’s trying to tell, constantly changing the rules of the game, and worst of all, it continuously fills the story with characters and backstory that only show up to hand out needed information or actions at the most convenient times for the plot. It’s actually frustrating at times to see how convoluted the story gets when it’s such a straightforward concept – but that can often happen when you have four people with scriptwriting credits.
The story centers around Olivia Barron (Lucy Hale) and her college friends that go to Mexico on spring break. While there, Olivia meets a guy named Carter (Landon Liboiron) who invites them all to an abandoned church for drinks. Since it’s their last day of spring break, they agree and while there Carter starts up a game of truth or dare. Once everyone asks one another a harmless truth or dare, Carter reveals that he brought them all there because he’d rather see strangers die than die himself. He tells Olivia in private that the game is real, and that it will continue to ask them questions once they leave and if they don’t go through with the truth or dare then the game will kill them.
Sounds interesting, right? It does. It sounds like it could be a fun movie – and it might still be one for tweens and early teenagers who are only just beginning to dabble in the horror genre. But the main issue with that is there are also loads of better horror movies to choose over this one if that’s the case because while the premise sounds like it could deliver 90-minutes of silly fun, it quickly turns into a mess.
So the group of Olivia’s friends consists of her bestie, Markie (Violette Beane), Markie’s boyfriend, Lucas (Tyler Posey), Brad (Heyden Szeto), Penelope (Sophia Ali) and her boyfriend, Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk.) Oh, and there’s Ronnie (Sam Lerner), who tags along with the group to the church, but nobody likes. So, when I said this movie was Final Destination meets truth or dare, I meant it fairly literally, in that the cursed game that follows them home asks the members of the group truth or dare in the same order they each asked back at the church. So how the game works is that someone or multiple people around you will get a snapchat looking evil smile filter on their face and just say “Truth or dare?” over and over until you choose. Nobody else can see this happening but the person involved in the question. If they successfully answer their truth, or do their dare, then the game moves on to the next person. If they don’t, well, they die.
When the movie starts this seems like a group of six friends who have known one another for their entire college lives – if not longer – yet they don’t really seem to care too much when some of them start dying off. I mean, there are the usual screams if they witness it happen, but then everyone goes back to talking like life is normal and they simply must figure a way out of this.
For example: Brad, who is one of Olivia’s closer friends, is gay, but hasn’t come out to his father because he fears his father’s disapproval. So, while the group is at the hospital after an incident took place, Brad is off on his own getting something from a vending machine. Here, he’s confronted by his dad (he’s a police officer, so his excuse for being there is that he’s doing his job? Sure, I guess) who asks him what’s going on. Moments later, Brad is asked “Truth or dare?” by a snapchat filter corpse from the morgue (scary!), he chooses truth, and his truth is that he has to come out to his dad, right then and there.
Cut away to Olivia and Markie in the waiting room, and Brad simply walks out and says, “I just had my turn. It made me come out to my dad.” They ask how it went, and Brad says it went fine. Like, wait, what? A weird, possessed game of sorts is haunting you, tells you to come out to your dad – a guy you’ve been lying to for years about having a pretend girlfriend, and something built up in the movie a couple of times earlier on – and not only does it all go shipshape, but it happens off screen?!
And to drive it all home even more, later when more deaths have occurred, they’re over at Brad’s house and trying to figure things out when Brad’s dad shows up again (remember, the convenience of the plot factor!) outside with another police officer. Brad says that he just wants to talk, and for Olivia not to worry because his turn isn’t next so he has some time to go chit chat with his pops. Do you see what I mean? Your friends are dying, a cursed game is forcing you all to say and do things you don’t want to reveal or do, and yet everyone is so calm. It’s like it’s just a normal thing to have a cursed game follow you home from Mexico. “Oh, you ate some bad burritos on your trip and got diarrhea? That sucks man. But that’s still better than me. I got hit with that whole cursed game trying to kill you thing.” “Aw man, that’s definitely something I always try to avoid. Feel better soon!”
Again, the concept is fine for some fun, but it’s all handled so poorly. I thought that the asking of the question in a taunting manner was a good idea, and how it can only be seen by the one being asked…that’s all good. That’s something to work with. Instead, there’s never any tension and the rules keep changing. At first if you decline to go through with your dare you’re possessed instantly and kill yourself in some fashion. We’re talking right away. “Forget this, I won’t do it,” possessed, dead. But then, not long after, Markie is dared to break Olivia’s hand, and she’s like, “I’m angry with you, but I can’t break your hand!” And the two go back and forth a few times before Markie finally commits. So why did she get so many chances? And why do others get that same treatment when it serves the story?
Plus, let’s talk about the death scenes for a moment. Death scenes in a horror film are vitally important – especially in a movie like this where the death scenes are the bread and butter – and yet, Truth or Dare just delivers the lamest, most predictable death scenes time and time again. There’s one scene that actually does a decent job of keeping you on edge, but almost immediately after we’re back to the status quo as the bland death count continues. As mentioned before, it also doesn’t help that nobody is losing their shit or is on edge because of what’s happening. Nothing makes you care less about people dying in a movie than when those in the film that are actually close to them are barely blinking an eye.
Then there’s the convoluted backstory just to try and give the plot somewhere to go. In the special features interviews, it’s revealed that producer Jason Blum just wanted some sort of movie done with the theme of truth or dare, and it’s clear that they had no other concepts going in with this mess that was thrown together. The backstory of the cursed game is supposed to help the characters find a way to stop it, but it’s just so ridiculous. It could’ve been handled a lot better with a loss less muddy explanations, and a lot less coincidences (such as the fact that Carter just happens to live in the same city as this group of friends that he tricked into playing the deadly game in Mexico, so he’s easy to find when the group needs answers.) Everything doesn’t always need to be laid out there.
Some movies should learn from films like It Follows, where a supernatural evil force of some kind is endlessly hunting the lead throughout the film without any real explanation of what it is or why it’s there. It’s not needed! In fact, that movie is even scarier because we don’t learn more about this entity. It would’ve tarnished it. We don’t always need a neat and tidy bow of a reveal explaining how the evil force was once a young woman who was molested and now haunts those who take part in the act of sex unless the lead can find the place where she was buried and display a sign of true love there to show this evil that she’s not alone, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s best left open ended. With Truth or Dare, it’s just too much out of nowhere so late in the game that it’s silly.
Lastly, without any spoilers, the ending is just terrible. If you stop and think about it, it makes zero sense whatsoever and again just breaks the rules of the game that they state again right before breaking them here. It’s completely illogical and is meant to be something much more morally philosophical than it is – mainly because it makes no sense. It’s incredibly clear that they just had no idea how to really wrap things up, so this was done with hopes that people wouldn’t think about it at all, because if you do, you’d be like, “Wait, what?” Which is actually a pretty good two-word way to describe my thoughts on this movie.
The film looks good. The video transfer is solid, and with a lot of dark scenes – especially early on – there aren’t any washed out blacks, or ugly looking moments, which is always a plus. The audio mix is strong, with the demonic voices coming through nicely, as well as the regular dialogue, score and soundtrack. With movies like this you want the jump scare moments to work if they have them, and here they pop nicely when they hit.
There are two versions of the film, with one being the Theatrical Version and the second being the Unrated Director’s Cut. I haven’t seen the theatrical version, so all opinions are based on the Unrated Director’s Cut. The difference in time between the two is only 40 seconds, so I’m not sure what was added. I’d wager it may have been a few bloodier shots, but either way, if you do pick this up or rent it, odds are you’ll watch the Unrated version as well.
Audio Commentary with Co-writer/Director Jeff Wadlow and Lucy Hale – The duo go through the film well enough, touching on creating the film, various themes, performances and stories from the set. Your usual commentary, but worth listening to if you’re really into the movie.
Game On: The Making of Truth or Dare – This featurette comes in at just under seven minutes in length. It talks about the plot of the film, and how they didn’t have a script or actors signed on and simply wanted to make a movie on the basis of the game truth or dare. The cast and crew talk about shooting, their characters, and their choice when it comes to picking truth or dare.
Directing the Deaths – Just over four minutes, this featurette talks about how some of the death scenes were done to coincide with the inner demons of the characters.
Universal Pictures Presents Truth or Dare. Directed by: Jeff Wadlow. Written by: Michael Reisz, Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach, Jeff Wadlow. Starring: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Sophia Ali, Nolan Gerard Funk, Landon Liboiron, Sam Lerner. Running time: 100 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: July 17, 2018.
Tags: Blumhouse Productions, Lucy Hale, Truth or Dare