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Truth Or Dare review - the game where nobody wins

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Many audiences are skeptical about horror movies. Those who aren't avid fans tend to seesaw between losing sleep for months on end, and finding them quite funny in their idiocy. Yet, every now and again, someone gets it right.

Blumhouse Productions is usually one of those someones. Founded by Jason Blum in 2000, Blumhouse has been generally dependable in its horror movies, many of which tend to be low-budget and include series such as Insidious, Paranormal Activity and Sinister. 2017 was a great year for Blumhouse seeing the release of Get Out, Happy Death Day, Split and The Belko Experiment. Bearing in mind how much I personally enjoyed Get Out and Blumhouse’s films in general (Oculus (2013) is one of the horror films I am constantly recommending to people), I had my fingers crossed for its newest offering: Truth or Dare (2018). 

Truth or Dare is yet another teen horror: Spring Break goes wrong, now-we’re-all-gonna-die type of thing. The last teen horror that I remember enjoying was Cabin in the Woods (2012), and part of its genius is its self-awareness. Generally, teen horrors distress me because the characters tend to be pretty stupid, for lack of a better word. However, given Blumhouse’s involvement, despite the teen-y set-up and cliched trailer, I was inclined to give Truth or Dare a fair chance: a feeling strengthened by the knowledge that it was written and directed by Jeff Wadlow, of Bates Motel fame.

Lucy Hale stars as Olivia, the main protagonist, and the film follows her and her friends as they try to figure out a way to escape a game of Truth or Dare turned deadly. In typical teen horror style, there is a lot of reference to phones and Facebook and YouTube, so that the audience knows it’s a modern, up-to-date film. If you’re a Pretty Little Liars fan, you will be well-acquainted with the sight of Lucy Hale looking at a phone in sheer horror – a sight generously peppered throughout Truth or Dare.

I held out hope for a while, but to no avail. With such a simple premise, there is little else to say about the film without spoiling it and it gives itself the difficult task of keeping the viewer interested in the supposed danger that follows a phrase most of the audience knows from childhood. Because of its simplicity, the film’s success, or lack thereof, rests very heavily on the strength of the deaths and thrills within it. Long story short: it’s a gore fest with no gore. The film’s main challenge is to figure out interesting ways to its characters to die and it shoots itself in the foot by showing most of the more interesting deaths and plot twists (I use the word twist loosely) in the trailer. In addition to that, it relies on loud noises to replace visible gore (presumably to retain its 15 rating) which gets tiring after about three deaths.

It also does what A LOT of horror movies do in establishing rules for why the Thing threatening the characters works the way it does but then proceeding to break its own rules.

The most disappointing aspect of Truth or Dare is its lack of originality; it has all the horror movie stereotypes (the group of unsuspecting teens, a creepy place that none of the characters have any business being in, a random person who initiates all the trouble by being ingratiated into the group with little to no opposition), and nothing else to actually spark the audience’s interest. Almost none of the characters are likable so it is tricky to foster any investment in whether they live or die. And there is next to no tension because the film is, overall, predictable and incredibly repetitive. It’s almost as if the audience need to be spoon-fed the main events of the film and, considering the whole thing is pretty self-explanatory, it gets rather patronising halfway through. There is no terror; no real sense of peril; and, despite the continually rising death count, there isn’t really anything that shocks or surprises the audience.

Let me put it this way: there was more laughing than screaming in my screening. That says a lot.  

Truth or Dare is in cinemas now.

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