[Screen It]

"TRUTH OR DARE"
(2018) (Lucy Hale, Violett Beane) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Horror: A group of college students must contend with being trapped inside a game of truth or dare that's controlled by a demon and where if they refuse to play, they'll die.
PLOT:
Olivia (LUCY HALE) is a college senior who's planning on spending her spring break doing volunteer work for a charity. But her best friend, Markie (VIOLETT BEANE), convinces her to join her, her boyfriend, Lucas (TYLER POSEY), and the rest of their friends in Mexico for one last bit of partying. Joining them are Penelope (SOPHIA TAYLOR ALI) and her boyfriend, Tyson (NOLAN GERARD FUNK), and Brad (HAYDEN SZETO) who's yet to come out to his cop father.

When another student, Ronnie (SAM LERNER), makes unwelcome advances toward Olivia, a stranger, Carter (LANDON LIBOIRON), steps in and then invites her and her friends to accompany him to the ruins of an old mission where they end up playing a game of truth or dare. Unbeknownst to them, he's done so to trap them inside the game that's controlled by a demon and where if they refuse to select one of the two options or follow through on that, they'll die.

Olivia is the first up and initially can't get the others to believe her, but slowly one by one they find themselves subjected to the same where one or more people around them suddenly develop evil grins, make them choose truth or dare, and then give them their directions. As the consequences of that progressively get worse and people start dying, the survivors try to figure out what's causing that, eventually leading them to one of Carter's friends, Giselle (AURORA PERRINEAU), who's similarly trapped inside the game.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Back when I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s electronic games were pretty much limited to Electric Football (and it's vibrating field), Lite-Brite (and those colorful pegs) and Operation (with the red nose buzzer alert if you were facing malpractice for touching either side of an open incision). While we also had pretty much every traditional board game known to children at that time, I think we more enjoyed games that didn't involve boards and instead revolved around physical motion (such as Freeze Tag, Red Light/Green Light, Snake in the Grass, Mother May I, and so on).

What I can't seem to remember is ever playing Truth or Dare. I know it existed, but while I can distinctly recall playing the aforementioned games, trying to dredge up memories of ToD results in a big goose egg. Maybe I was traumatized by having to follow through on either of those choices and thus buried that deep in my psyche. Or maybe we were smart enough to realize that what seems like a fun game on the surface could quickly turn ugly and even downright dangerous as things would progress.

Of course, one could simply refuse to follow through on telling the truth or accepting the dare, with the only repercussions being getting grief from your siblings or friends for being a wuss. Not so in the movie "Truth or Dare" where a number of college students end up playing that on spring break (really, and they're not nerds) only to find themselves in a never-ending cycle of having to play and follow through lest they meet some sort of grisly demise.

Yes, it's yet another high concept horror film premise, sort of like the "Final Destination" flicks where if you cheated death it keeps coming back trying to get you. Here, two best friends (Lucy Hale and Violett Beane) go to Mexico with a number of others (Tyler Posey, Sophia Ali, Nolan Gerard Funk and Hayden Szeto), meet a stranger (Landon Liboiron) and end up playing the game in the ruins of an old Catholic mission.

Our protagonist, Olivia (Hale), is the first to have signs that something is amiss as she has visions of her friends with huge evil grins on their faces. Upon returning home, she keeps being supernaturally "reminded" that she must choose to tell the truth or take the dare. Of course, her friends don't believe her until it's their turn, and by then the body count starts ticking upward.

Once they've figured out their curse, they -- in standard horror film form -- must find the source behind their new problem. Unfortunately, the origin story -- as concocted by writer/director Jeff Wadlow and co-scribes Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, and Christopher Roach -- isn't that original, interesting, or creepy, which pretty much holds true for the overall offering. In fact, it didn't take long for our promo audience crowd to turn on this film and start making snarky remarks about the inanity of it all and the cheap, rote scares.

Yes, there's potential in the premise, and some moral quandaries are presented -- such as sleeping with your best friend's boyfriend as a dare -- but none of it's as imaginative or frightening as it could have been. It certainly doesn't help that this is being released just one week after the superlative and highly effective "A Quiet Place," and Wadlow comes up far short of matching the sort of thrills, chills, unease and overall terror that permeates every inch and sound of that far better film.

So, what we're left with is yet another film where young people die one by one and the survivors try to find the solution before they're added to the list of fatalities. Unlike its immediate predecessor that will go down as one of the great horror films of recent, "Truth or Dare" feels like one of those B or C-level offerings that you'll quickly forget, just like I possibly did for the real game so many decades ago. The film rates as a disappointing 3 out of 10.




Reviewed April 10, 2018 / Posted April 13, 2018


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