Reviewed by Lee Hill
Truth or Dare is such a bland, albeit efficient horror genre retread that its only conceivable raison d’etre is to keep risk averse mid-level studio executives employed. Entering a market that has been rejuvenated by the likes of Get Out, It Follows and A Quiet Place, this film deserves to get beaten to death at the box office and exiled to a remote corner of streaming portal hell.
In Truth or Dare, a group of California university students, who live in the tidiest rental house ever inhabited by undergrads, travel to Mexico for a spring break bacchanal before the final semester and exams. On the last night of their cross-border party-a-thon, they are asked to play Truth or Dare by another student they meet. The game soon turns into an increasingly tedious and not very logical series of elaborate killings; all having something to do with a convent where the young nuns were forced to have sex with the head priest…or maybe Cambridge Analytica or well, ultimately you don’t really care such is the indifference with which the backstory is executed.
Beautiful people being slowly picked off by a shadowy assailant has been a B-movie constant ever since Agatha Christie wrote And Then There Were None and Ten Little Indians. Roger Corman and his cohorts at American International gave us a series of lively variations aimed at the Drive-In market through the 60s . And then of course we have had countless Halloween, Friday the 13th and Saw sequels since. Blumhouse Productions, the producers of Truth or Dare, have been giving us a series of financially lucrative franchises such as Purge, Insidious and Paranormal Activity so you think they would at least bring to this new entree a certain thrill factor. Alas, Truth or Dare is oddly unscary; perhaps its most spirited sequence is the montage of spring break heavy drinking and make-out sessions which make up the title credits.
The cast are the kind of sincere and good looking young thespians – Lucy Hale, Violett Beane, Tyler Posey, et al – clearly hoping that a director of substance (say a David Lynch type casting his next Mulholland Drive-type headfuck) will notice them or they will get cast in a prestige tv show. They do their best and to be fair to director Jeff Wadlow, he doesn’t get in their way or demand they do much more than scream and run at appropriate moments. There are many nods to social media (which in 10 years will have all the staying power of the flower power decals people used to decorate their Volkswagens) and even an Asian-American gay character who is depicted without stereotyping (he still gets killed off half-way), but the cumulative effect of these attempts at being-down-with-the-kids feels like a branding exercise.
Wadlow, a Dartmouth educated actor turned director, is probably best known for Kick Ass 2 and apparently nineties nostalgia act, Quentin Tarantino, is a fan. He co-wrote Truth or Dare with 3 other credited writers which raises the suspicion that a more idiosyncratic script was story developed to death by Blumhouse and its distributor, Universal. The parties involved are all clearly hoping Truth or Dare will become another profitable franchise, but the results are so unmemorable that hopes for box office riches could be still born. But hey, there is a huge appetite for unchallenging cinema out there so what do I know. However, if you are genuinely looking for an excuse to bring your security blanket to the cinema, skip Truth or Dare and see Ghost Stories or A Quiet Place instead.
Screenplay by Michael Reisz, Jillian Jacobs, Chris Roach and Jeff Wadlow; Story by Michael Reisz
Starring Lucy Hale, Violett Beane, Tyler Posey
Truth or Dare is in cinemas from today.