‘Truth or Dare’ leaves audience with just enough jump scares to classify it as horror

In Arts & Entertainment, Film & TV, Lifestyle, Reviews
A portrait of Lucy Hale not smiling embedded into a question mark.
Courtesy of IMDB

Truth or dare is a well-known party game among adolescents and adults usually filled with laughs and jokes that can get out of hand in a matter of seconds. But in the film, “Truth or Dare,” a once harmless party game takes a deadly twist with an entirely new set of rules.

The film follows a group of college friends who go on a spring break trip to Mexico, but unknowingly bring along a demonic entity that manifests itself through the party game. Following a new set of rules, the friends must complete a truth or dare to avoid the potential penalty of death.

The concept of a movie centered around a deadly game isn’t new among movie plots, as its been constantly reused in countless horror films like “Ouija” (2014) and “Would You Rather” (2012). But in “Truth or Dare,” not only are the characters’ lives on the line, but their relationships (which are the driving force behind their choices) are also threatened.

The opening scene of the film shows a crazed woman setting an innocent bystander on fire, foreshadowing the game’s effects on its players and revealing the extent of what they’re willing to do in order to live.

When the group of friends are first introduced, it’s obvious they have a rocky friendship, especially between the main characters Lucas (Tyler Posey) and Olivia (Lucy Hale). But after Olivia is pressured into going on a spring break trip, the group’s secrets start to unravel as the game uses their pasts against them.

Subtlety was not this movies strong suit, as many of the scenes and outcomes were predictable. The jump scares, which were effective at times, could easily be foreseen by the scene setups alone.

Some performances in the film felt a bit unrealistic, especially with characters like Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk), who was a self-centered jerk, with his expression hardly ever changing. In one scene, Tyson watches a video of one of the characters falling and breaking his neck, and proceeds to crack a joke (no pun intended) downplaying the seriousness of someone’s death.

But the poorly written and unrealistic screenplay can be blamed on co-writer and director Jeff Wadlow, who also created “Kick Ass 2.”

The highlight of the film is the game itself as it forces its participants into terrifying situations that make the viewers reflect on what they might do in the tense circumstances. The secrets that are slowly uncovered throughout the game are also uniquely important to each character’s story arc, which make many of them relatable.

The outsider, Carter (Landon Liboiron), who the group meets during spring break, was a standout character as he appears very suspicious, but it feels as though the audience gets tricked along with the rest of the group as they begin to believe that Carter has ulterior motives. Carter comes off as a calm and laid-back character, but once his identity is revealed, viewers see the game has made him crazed and desperate.

Similar to Olivia, she starts out as a sweet and good-natured girl. But the game transforms her into a daring character, willing to do anything to protect her secrets and best friend Markie (Violett Beane).

Another standout character was Brad (Hayden Szeto), a friend in the group who is afraid to come out as gay to his father. Brad was fun and refreshing to watch, while other supporting characters like Penelope (Sophia Ali) and Ronnie (Sam Lerner) were annoying, clichè and only served as contrasting personalities to the rational characters.

In the end, “Truth or Dare” was not scary by any means, but visually it was creepy enough to get people squirming in their seats. The terrifying but ultimately satisfying ending sets itself up for a future sequel and solidifies its status as a horror flick. Despite its flaws, the overall premise makes for a fun watch.

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