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Entries in truth or dare (1)

Thursday
Apr122018

TRUTH OR DARE

Stars: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sophia Ali, Landon Liboiron, Nolan Gerard Funk, Sam Lerner, Brady Smith, Hayden Szeto, Morgan Lindholm, Aurora Perrineau and Tom Choi.
Writer: Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, Christopher Roach and Jeff Wadlow
Director: Jeff Wadlow.

Rating: 2/5

A far more more ambitious narrative and punchy directorial approach was needed to carry off the high-concept horror tropes of the deadly dull thriller Truth or Dare, a college-kids-vs-malevolent-curse bore that clearly wants to be this generation’s Final Destination (or, at least, the better episodes of that hit-miss 00’s franchise).

Directed with professional indifference by journeyman Jeff Wadlow (Cry Wolf, 2005; Kick-Ass 2, 2013), Truth or Dare posits the notion, ‘What if the titular children’s game had real stakes?’, a potentially interesting premise that is then left in the hands of an insipid posse of one-dimensional characters to mull over.

The first half-hour of the film is Teen Horror 101; a group of demographically pleasing early 20-somethings (the do-gooder; the troubled party-girl; the hunky nice-guy; the jerk; the gay guy; the creep) head for a spring break in Mexico. Just how uninteresting are these kids? A boozy night at a beach dance party leads not to wildly unbridled hedonism, but instead a game of ‘truth or dare’, led by a handsome stranger who has latched on to the group.

After a moment of ‘what-just-happened?’ oddness, the group have resumed their well-off middle-class lives in College Town, USA. Our heroine, Olivia (an ok Lucy Hale, perkiness personified) begins to note the phrase ‘Truth or Dare’ everywhere she looks, until she responds in an embarrassingly public way, outing her friend Markie (Violett Beane) for being unfaithful to Lucas (Tyler Posey).

In the order in which they played the game in Mexico, each of the friends must face the challenge put to them by a temporarily possessed passer-by or acquaintance, whose wide-eyed, broadly grinning appearance resembles little more than that which can be accomplished by about a thousand different in-phone apps nowadays. Soon, it becomes clear that to defy the question means a painful death with the inevitability of everyone’s demise all but assured. Not that anyone’s passing seems to have any consequence at all on their friends or the community in which they live; nobody reacts with long-term grief or crippling shock at the string of deaths, even when video of one icky demise does the social media rounds.

The undoing of Truth or Dare as with many looked-good-on-paper concepts, is that it ultimately strays from its own logic and careens into preposterousness. Initially, Olivia gets three shots over the course of a day to answer the question, while other’s meet there doom within minutes; ‘the curse’ controls what you see and hear (even dabbling in street art to get its message across), yet at one point our heroine bounces between a dealing with the demon and chatting with her friends.

Wadlow kicks off Act 3 with an interminable scene involving a tongue-less ex-nun (don’t ask) and a bucketload of explanatory exposition that shuts down the story’s already meagre momentum. The ending, an underlit and shoddy sequence set in a dusty old Mexican convent, looks low-rent; the twist in the final reel proves to be both no twist at all and utterly indecipherable.

A propensity for characters to incessantly text and check Facebook may play believably with phone-gazing teens, but the device only serves to undercut the scares; ultimately, there are none. An adherence to PG-horror boundaries further hogties the chills, meaning the best that can be said for Truth or Dare is that the concept may transition into a passable SyFy/CW slot-filler. The only ones who convincingly suffer through a cursed existence are the paying audience members.