There’s a fine line between stupid and clever, and it’s a line that Blumhouse horror Truth Or Dare finds itself dancing all over during the course of its 100-minute running time. It’s so easy to sneer at the apparent barrel-scraping of the title but there’s a wickedly mean-spirited potential to the idea of forcing a group of friends to tell their darkest secrets to the people that it would hurt most and do things that would kill them or make them wish they were dead.
However, despite one or two well-executed shocks and twists, it’s an opportunity that the four writers and Kick-Ass 2 director Jeff Wadlow never exploit as much as they should. Truth Or Dare likes (most) of its characters too much to cut as deeply and savagely as something like Unfriended, and it’s entirely lacking a personality of its own. Consequently, the film springs into life whenever it’s game time then reverts to the traditional teen horror model with dull regularity.
It all kicks off when a boozy Spring Break round of truth or dare in an abandoned Mexican church (yes!) takes a sinister turn, as shady stranger Carter (Hemlock Grove’s Landon Liboiron) tells selfless Olivia (Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale) that he’s just cursed her and her friends. A demonic force won’t let them stop playing, and if they don’t do as instructed…they die.
The film is not without its charms. Some of the challenges are nicely twisted, some of the deaths are surprisingly gruesome, and the whole thing is so relentlessly high-pitched that it can’t be accused of a lack of energy. It’s also refreshing to see a film in which the bulk of the characters get on board with believing a concept as mad as “that truth or dare game is trying to kill us” so quickly, and in Final Destination style, those who don’t play by the rules are promptly dispatched.
But it’s never sharp enough. You’ll laugh more than you’ll jump (it doesn’t help that the evil grin effects are hilarious from the get-go) and it’s so frequently clunky that you end up willing the demon to pick up the pace as the bickering and detective work drag on. The performances are all fine, but only Hayden Szeto (The Edge Of Seventeen) stands out as a character trying to keep his sexuality a secret from his overbearing father.
If you’re looking for a disposable teen horror, Truth Or Dare could be the Friday night nonsense you’re looking for, but you can absolutely do better.