Truth or Dare (2018) Review

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Truth or Dare

Directed by Jeff Wadlow

www.blumhousestruthordare.com

Is “ Truth or Dare” worth playing?

First and foremost, “The Ring,” “It Follows,” and “Final Destination” (and the latter two’s far superior forebear “Sole Survivor”) are obvious and overt influences making this predictable pulp and while it doesn’t compare, it’s not a complete party foul. More “Scooby Doo” than any other source material, there’s no Mystery Machine required – just a vehicle with enough gas to get over the border, the gang and everyone’s favorite sidekick Google (with Snapchat filling in for Scrabby Doo.)  Modern horror seems to have taken the Asian approach to modes of fear, focusing heavily on technology, ghosts and curses and you’ll get lots more of that here. For those where that’s hackneyed, old hat there’s nothing to change opinion here but enough to work with for fans of that style.

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Lured to an abandoned monastery by Carter (Landon Liboiron, “Hemlock Grove” and “Degrassi”), Olivia (Lucy Hale, “Pretty Little Liars”, Lucas (Tyler Posey, “Teen Wolf”) and Markie (Violett Beane, “The Flash”) and their friends find their Mexican Spring Break siesta taking a dark turn as casual drinking and a classic party game go awry. Carter reveals he’s brought them into the fold to pass on a curse and quickly vanishes; as the group returns to their academic and off campus lives, they realize something unholy has followed them home and won’t stop until questions are asked, dares taken and lives ended.

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Each of the group is alerted that they are next on the chopping block when their friends, family members or random passers-by attain a grin ala “The Man Who Laughs Last” for genre fans and The Joker for those not familiar with that classic, adopting a Glasgow smile/Chelsea grin (or as by it’s lesser known name, Denise Richards) to incite fear. Its effect ranges from horrific to humorous depending on the actor, location and context; occasionally unnerving but often had most of the screening giggling uncontrollably. The best part of this whole schtick is the voice of the demon being provided by the great Gary Anthony Williams (“The Boondocks,” “Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”) who always delivers in the voice acting department and is one of the films few saving graces.

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The rest of the cast are all trope-tastic but comic relief and general jerkass Ronnie (Sam Lerner) makes a couple of memorable, if all too brief appearances. If there would have been more focus on the funny, I think this would have been far more enjoyable. The absolute absurdity of horror makes for excellent comedy and while not as humorous as “Wish Upon” (whether that was intentional or not remains to be seen) or Blumhouse’s own very clever “Happy Death Day”, both of which made those features ripe for repeat viewings.

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Director Jeff Wadlow, perhaps best known for writing/directing “Kick Ass 2” (and who is currently tapped to pen the new “Masters of the Universe”) had previously helmed genre efforts “Cry_Wolf” and “Prey” and while he’s adept enough to color by numbers, there’s no real innovation here. Upon reflection, it’s difficult to recall a single major jump scare which are such a staple of modern horror that their absence is probably the only genuine twist to be found. Like “Final Destination” you know they’re inevitable but even when there’s an attempt at shock and awe, it often becomes laugh and yawn. Had they gone with the bombast of that series’ kills, there would at least be some cause for cheer.

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The dreaded PG-13 rating ruins some deaths to a degree but less because more gore makes everything better but like so many of the horror films of today, there’s simply not enough suspense, no tension stretched taut across the screen. The prologue is a prime example of this; a victim of the curse stops at a gas station to buy some cigarettes and hopefully time. A dare is made by the demon to set a patron on fire; instead of making it a slow burn (no pun intended) a rush to the payoff is made, resulting in cinematic premature ejaculation; unsatisfying to say the least.

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Blumhouse Productions has a bevy of extremely successful terror titles and even a couple prestige efforts (such as “Get Out”) but to balance the equilibrium, you need some schlock. Big bucks are likely in store for the studio juggernaut with “Truth of Dare” slashing into the cinema on Friday the 13th and it’s worth celebrating this unofficial horror holiday with it so long as you suspend disbelief, lower your expectations and play the game…

 

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Ready Player One Spoilercast plus A Quiet Place – Cult Following Episode #77

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