Movie Review: Truth or Dare? (spoilers!)

Tuesdays are sacred.  Why?  Because movie theaters offer discounted tickets on Tuesdays.  I mean, what’s better than chilling at the movie for a few hours when you’ve only payed $5 to get in?  Let me answer that for you: nothing.

And, if we’re being honest, I really am glad I only paid $5 for this movie.

It wasn’t my new favorite teen horror movie.  Though, if we’re being truthful, I’m not sure I have a favorite teen horror movie…unless we’re counting Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods though I consider that more horror satire than a straight up teen horror movie.

I didn’t have high expectations going into this movie.  I hadn’t even seen a trailer for it beforehand–which is weird, since I gobble up movie trailers like I do popcorn.  But my friend wanted a movie, and we hadn’t seen this one yet, so last night, we found ourselves at the lovely Alamo Drafthouse enjoying drinks, loaded fries…and that’s it, really.

Because the movie wasn’t that great.  The premise, once I realized what it was, made me think of what Jumanji‘s awkward emo teen years would have been like, if games aged like people: a game goes bad, teenage angst, demons, Spring Break, and more angst.   That being said, I did really like the part about the demon possessing a concept, an idea.  That really got my mind working, and it was a nice break from other things demons seem particularly interested in possessing: small children, dolls–ok, anything childhood related, really.  And yes, the game Truth or Dare is a game from my childhood, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch, but I loved the idea of possessing a concept.  It made me think back to the idea of thoughts as disease: spreading, growing, mutating, and nearly impossible to kill once they had.

That seemed to be the only thing going for the movie though.  Aside from the acting, which really wasn’t that bad, all things considered.

My main problems with the movie centered around the, for lack of a better term, something I’m calling the “scare element.”  Tropes you find in horror movies designed explicitly to garner a scare-centric reaction from the audience, whether fear, cringing, disgust, what have you.  People standing still as the camera pans passed?  Loud banging at quiet moments?   Chilling grins reminiscent of the Joker?  Those are “scare elements” to me, because, well, they’re scary.

This movie was laden with them, as an horror movie should be, but the type used, and how they were executed got to me as a viewer.  To the point where I was just…done.  You know when you reach that point where you’re so tired, you either cry or laugh?  It was like that, only instead of crying vs. laughing, we had fearing vs. laughing.  And laughing won out hard.

The religious element (which I’ve never really understood as scary, or a scare element, but according to others, I’m in the minority on that front), designed to establish an origin for the horror, seemed unnecessary.  Why have the story start in a Catholic convent?  What did the religious element add?  None that I saw–but religion and horror seem to go hand-in-hand in Hollywood, especially when you’re dealing with demons.  Can’t have demons without nuns, I suppose.

Another scare element that threw me was the use of squeamishness.  Lucy Hale’s character, Olivia, at one point, has her hand broken by a hammer.  Another guy jams a pen into his eye and throws himself into a door frame to drive it in deeper.  These scares, to me, felt over the top.  Designed to get a sickly gagging reaction from the audience.  A cheap scare, almost.  Not a scare I was interested in experiencing because I felt like they could have done better and were simply copping out.

Another cop-out was character development.  As a writer, I’m more focused on the character.  I want to see myself in these people, to find something that connects us, and to then root for them because of it.  I want them to succeed.  Here, though, I wasn’t really rooting for anyone.  None of the characters felt real, more like caricature, cardboard-cutouts of stereotypical teenagers.

The only instance, maybe, of character development I saw (if we can call it development and not regression, but that’s another topic for another day) centered around how the movie ended, the last scare element of the film.  Once again, it felt like a cop-out.  That they’d painted themselves into such a helpless corner, this was the only option left to our plucky survivalists and the writers behind them.  But it wasn’t.  All they had to do was order the demon to do something they knew it couldn’t…like “I dare you to end the game,” for example.  It would have taken planning, cunning, and courage (I guess Olivia isn’t a Gryffindor), but they could have managed.  They had even set it up so that after Olivia and Markie both choose truth, then the demon would have to choose dare.  Game, set, and match.  But that’s not what happened.  Instead, YouTube happened.   The ending, then, after building up our heroine to be an altruistic, moral person fell flat and forced.

Ok, all that being said, I’m happy this movie exists.  Why, you might ask?  Because it’s creative.  It’s a story.  It’s someone, somewhere, going: “Hey, I’ve got an idea,” and working to bring it to life.  Did I like it?  No.  But that’s fine.  Because someone else may love it.  And if authors, directors, creators didn’t take a chance on things, we’d never find out what stirs our blood and gets our hearts pumping.  So congrats to everyone connected with the film: you made something.  And that’s so inspiring.

 

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