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Truth or Dare – Movie Review

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Truth or Dare – Movie Review

Rating: D+ (Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

The teenage horror movie seems to often begin with an interesting concept and that proves to be the jumping off point to seeing these young people get murdered. Some of the best horror films still put character and proper tension over merely frightening the audience. Unfortunately, Truth or Dare doesn’t give us anyone worth caring about and is constantly tying itself in knots. The idea has possibilities in a fashion similar to the Final Destination series, but director Jeff Wadlow and his team of screenwriters mostly opt for obvious jump scares. Even the central visual motif of characters sporting mischievous smiles doesn’t land with the proper effect.

The game of “Truth or Dare” is simple and universal enough to create a horror film out of, but the movie seems aware of the limitations. Every scene throws in another rule and obstacle for the characters to face, but they are contrived to not to make the film end sooner. What further harms it is how dull and cardboard the characters are. In the best horror films, there is at least one likeable individual we root to reach the end. Truth or Dare doesn’t have a single person to get invested in, as all of them are bad people. The male leads act like entitled sex fiends and the women are frequently petty to one another. Nobody has a genuine arc, not even the main girl Olivia. The film establishes her goody two-shoes personality early on and leaves it at that.

Rather than relying on proper suspense to craft its scares, Truth or Dare prefers to go for the easiest horror trick in the book: the jump scare. It’s easy to count down when a sudden loud sound will emerge and that lessens any potential fright from the viewer. The story structure is cliché, but one can make the argument that the thrills come from how characters are killed off. While Final Destination took great pains to create elaborate death traps, Truth or Dare prefers the quick and simple approach. Deaths tend to involve intentionally harming one’s self or getting shot. It all makes for a rather dull experience, especially for horror fans already well accustomed to the directions their favourite genre can go in.

Truth or Dare also heavily panders to the young generation with frequent references to social media. The likes of Facebook and YouTube are widely used in this day and age, so that’s not a problem by itself. However, the film attempts to appeal so much to the teenage viewer that it just comes across as desperate. In addition to the jump scares, the movie seems really confident in having characters imagining large evil grins on nearby people. Done properly, this would certainly be spooky. However, it merely looks unintentionally comical most of the time. The supernatural villain’s origins are particularly botched and add to the convoluted nature of the picture.

Watching Truth or Dare, one can see the potential with taking this simple sleepover party game and turning it into a creepy horror film. However, it mostly resorts to the expected clichés and threadbare characters. In an age where horror films, including ones produced by Blumhouse, are going in new directions, these sorts of movies feel particularly underwhelming. There is nothing wrong with making a silly teenage horror movie where a large ensemble is killed off in ridiculous ways, but Truth or Dare seems lost with the proper tone and forces the audience to follow a bunch of rules that don’t add up.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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