If I’m any indication, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare will pleasantly surprise you for its hour and forty minute runtime. The premise is fun; it’s an effective thriller that isn’t overly reliant on jump scares; and (although the kills reek of the movie’s PG-13 rating) the majority of them manage to resonate.
Truth or Dare stars Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale, Teen Wolf’s Tyler Posey, and The Flash’s Violett Beane as three of a group of six college friends who visit Mexico for a last hurrah: their senior year spring break. There, they meet Carter (Landon Liboiron), who tricks them into playing an iteration of the titular game. Here’s the thing: the game itself is possessed by an ancient demon named Calyx. “Tell the truth or you die. Do the dare or you die. Refuse to play… and you die,” Carter ominously warns. Let the game begin.
The cast puts in okay performances. Not the best I’ve ever seen, and nothing to write home about. But okay nonetheless.
Beane is the exception to this rule. Her character, Markie, is the girlfriend of Posey’s Lucas and the best friend of Hale’s Olivia. She’s also still reeling – four years after the fact – from her father’s suicide. When the group starts realizing the reality of their situation, Markie is the only character that feels like she isn’t buying in for a reason other than the script is telling her not to. In a later, particularly powerful scene, Calyx possesses a video Markie keeps on her phone of her father. When Markie selects truth and is asked why she keeps the gun her father used to kill himself, she answers, through tears, “Sometimes I think about using it on myself.”
The facial design for those possessed by Calyx – what I’ve heard others dub “the Willem Dafoe grin” – is creepy without being over the top. In the sound editing, the characters’ voices are also slightly manipulated to add an unsettling edge to them.
The film’s director, Jeff Wadlow, seems to have a knack for turning party games into slasher-fests. His 2005 feature film debut, Cry Wolf, featured a group of party-goers who play a game called “Wolf”, which one of the teens uses as pretext in order to kill the others. While it’s an interesting premise, let’s just hope Wadlow doesn’t pigeonhole himself by repeating it too many more times.
My one notable gripe about Truth or Dare is that three major ending plot points are in the trailer. They’re edited for the trailer so that they feel as if they’re just part of the plot, but they’re there.
If you’re looking for something scary to see this Friday the 13th weekend, you could do worse than Truth or Dare. While the movie’s nothing special, if you’re like me, you’ll have a good time.
3/5 Willem Dafoes