Director: Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Lucy Hale and a bunch of other actors you may or may not ever hear from again.
Ok, I’m getting very tired of this.
In last year’s Rings, we learned more about evil little girl Samara and how her father was a sexually abusive priest who kept her mother in a sex dungeon that was (if memory serves me right) hidden in the basement of the church. In Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, five college friends are tricked into playing the title game by a stranger, only to learn later that the game is possessed by a demon who was summoned by a young nun to kill the priest who was sexually abusing her and the other women at a convent in Mexico. Is this going to be a trend with future PG-13 horror movies? Are there going to be more movies like this exploiting an awful reality to spice up their dumb plots? I sincerely hope not.
Look, I’m a Catholic, but I’m also no idiot. The sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was shameful and sickening, but if a movie wants to address it, then they need to do so thoughtfully and with sincerity (much like John Michael McDonagh did with the 2014 masterpiece Calvary). You can not exploit it as shamefully as this movie does, but what’s particularly sick about Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare is that it exploits sexual abuse not once, but twice, and the second time is (if you can believe it) even more distasteful than the first.
Some might try and make the argument that this may be one of those go-for-broke horror movies that wallows in bad taste, but if that’s the case, then the movie shoots itself in the foot with its PG-13 rating. I could see where the movie might have had some creatively gruesome fun with its premise, but with the rating it has, all of the kills are watered-down in the extreme. Of course, I do not mind PG-13 horror movies when they’re done right, but if Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare really wanted to be one of those bad taste horror films (like the original Evil Dead), then it really needed that R rating.
The characters here are exactly what you’d expect characters in an awful horror movie to be: one-dimensional, annoying, and intensely unlikable. We got one med student who’s been writing illegal prescriptions for his fellow students, and one young woman who’s been constantly cheating on her boyfriend, which may have something to do with the fact that her dad killed himself sometime ago. I’m not going to write down their names, because doing so would indicate that there might be something interesting to say about them. There’s not. I can not remember the last time I saw a horror movie where I was eagerly hoping and begging for the characters to die.
Lucy Hale is the Good Girl and leading lady. She’s talked out of spending her Spring Break building houses for Habitat for Humanity by her bestie (Violett Beanne) and travels down to Mexico with her friends for a week of sun and fun. On their last night there, Good Girl meets a Dark and Handsome Stranger (Landon Liboiron) at a bar, and he convinces Good Girl and her friends to hang out at an abandoned monastery to play a game of truth or dare. When Dark and Handsome Stranger reveals his true intentions, he runs away, but not before telling Good Girl: “You should have told me to piss off.”
And then, the game follows the friends back home (dun-dun-DUUUUNNNN)! The rules of the game are simple: Play the game, or you die; tell the truth, or you die; do the dare, or you die!!! Many jump scares abound, the most unintentionally funny one occurring when Good Girl’s friend enters her room with drinks in hand (seriously, that simple act is played for a cheap scare). It all leads to a climactic decision by Good Girl that is thoughtless, wrong-headed, and incongruous with her character (the alternative would have been darker, but also far more effective and maybe even more surprising).
This movie is so awful that there is not one single aspect of it that works. The hand-held cinematography by Jacques Jouffret is quite bad, and the night time scenes are so underlit that they feel visually murky. Sean Albertson’s editing is so terrible that it leaves the film’s most potentially compelling moment (where a gay Asian man has to tell his overbearing father the truth about his sexuality) out of the movie. The CGI demon smiles are not even sort of scary. Jeff Wadlow’s direction is so listless that I kept imagining him giving bored and disinterested directing behind the scenes to his cast and crew. There is no way that anybody with any interest in the movie they're making could end up with a film this dull.
Sometimes bad horror movies could be fun to watch. The great Youtube critic Chris Stuckmann even said that this was a definite Hilariocity (his term for a hilarious atrocity) and that he would definitely watch it again. I own the complete boxed set of Robert Englund’s A Nightmare on Elm Street movies on Blu Ray, and while some are quite awful, they are entertainingly awful (and yes, I still watch them). I was hoping for an entertainingly bad movie here, but when it exploits sexual abuse so shamelessly, the end result is not only bad, but sickening. Avoid this stinker like the plague.
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, some sexual content, alcohol abuse, and some thematic material
Final Grade: no stars (out of ****)