The Truth Hurts
Goddammit, Jason Blum. Just…goddammit. For those who don’t know, Jason Blum is an American film producer and founder of Blumhouse Productions, a company best known for creating micro-budget flicks. Blum almost always gives a director a total of $5 million to cast, write, and film a movie while assuring said director that they will have complete creative control away from the traditional blockbuster studio system. This of course has lead to proliferation of horror flicks from this production company namely Insidious, Sinister, Paranormal Activity, The Purge, Split, The Visit, and Get Out. As you can see, that’s a pretty wide berth of recognition and talent Blum has accrued over the years. But before his Academy Award nominated hits, he produced a whole LOT of garbage. And his latest definitely feels like a throwback to his roots.
So we find ourselves in the usual company of a clique of thoroughly unlikable teenagers who are in Mexico on Spring Break. The goody two shoes among them, Olivia (Lucy Hale), ends up hitting off with another vacationer named Carter (Landon Liboiron) who invites her and her friends to enjoy drinks in an abandon mission. While hanging out, they start playing the classic drinking game of truth or dare until it’s Carter’s turn. Thing go south when Carter reveals to the group that he only lured Olivia and her friends out to the mission so that they would take his place in a supernatural version of the party game that will likely kill them. In disbelief of the stranger initially, Olivia and company soon find that Carter was telling the truth as a demonic presence starts to manipulate signs, tattoos, graffiti, and even other people with a Snapchat twisted smile on (seriously) to force the teens to continue playing truth or dare…or he’ll kill them as quickly and as bloodlessly as possible.
If that sounds completely idiotic to you, don’t worry: it’s SOOOOO much worse if you actually sat through the film rather than see the trailer, which incidentally gave the entire plot away along with every good kill and scare. Now this isn’t meant to sound slightly psychotic (it kind of is), but the slasher genre’s more memorable entries like Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc. all thrive on the ingenuity and absurdity of their respective murders carried out by the monster du jour. If the deaths aren’t remotely interesting for a slasher, than the illusion of fear of the ghost, monster, entity, or what have you, breaks down and you get an abysmal horror flick like The Bye Bye Man. Which isn’t to say that all horror must have gruesome kills to be interesting. After all, we do have clever dark comedies to pass the time like Happy Death Day or Get Out, or intense situation that rely on carefully constructed suspense like A Quiet Place or It Follows. But as you may have surmised from my dismissive tone thus far, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare laughs in the face of words like “care” or “suspense” and instead provides pathetic excuse after excuse to exist.
First of all, a big knock against the film is that it’s entirely populated by completely unlikable imbeciles who do not change or grow as individuals through the machinations of the plot. So considering your spending an hour and 45 minutes with these pack of dipshits, the insufferability ratings are through the charts as you have to contend with Olivia’s best friend Markie (Violett Beane) becoming indignant after being outed as a cheater of her boyfriend, Lucas (Tyler Posey); a prototypical douchebro named Ronnie (Sam Lerner) always try to aggressively hook up with college girls while continuously acting like annoying twat; and an unethical med student named Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk) gleefully passing out prescriptions for all sorts of pharmaceuticals to random college kids. The only likable member of this posse is Brad (Hayden Szeto), who is immediately sympathetic of the plight of his friends and his to grapple with staying in the closet to avoid retaliation by his homophobic father. Which of course the demon forces him to tell the truth to his father and…everything was fine. Yeah, no immediate punishment, and Brad felt relief in finally coming out to his family. What a complete idiot the demon must have felt to have his plan foiled by the machinations of indifference.
Actually, let’s talk about this “demon” some more. Not since The Bye Bye Man have I seen a more arbitrary killer of teens with strict “rules,” and not since Rings have I seen one who gleefully breaks those rules constantly. He pulls crap like “I dare you…to tell the truth,” and halfway through stops the teens from simply requesting for a Truth challenge constantly by sticking on a random two consecutive Truth challenge restriction. And even by the end of the film, the demon gets to become a “player” himself which ones again highlights how stupid this game’s rules were to begin with. Screw a spoiler warning, if this film didn’t give a damn about building up a decent horror flick then I’m not going to give a damn about its constantly changing rule book. And less I forget, every time the demon shows up to ask “Truth or Dare” he almost always utilizes that stupid Snapchat filter grin. It doesn’t look remotely scary or frightening and just appears downright silly. Also: badly shot as well, since the digital effect to create this was probably shot with an actual smartphone.
Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised at such a subpar production was on display here as this film comes to us courtesy of Jeff Wadlow, who hasn’t directed a horror flick in 13 years when he made the much hyped but ultimately dull Cry Wolf, before he went on to direct the slipshod jobs of Kick-Ass 2 and Never Back Down. Combine such lazy direction with a script with the hands of four different people with little experience in horror or quality entertainment, and you have a recipe for true disaster. So only the acting could have saved this mess from oblivion, but guess what?
Ham-fisted performances across the board. All the boys in this are a bunch of interchangeable hunks of muscle that couldn’t emote if you held a gun to their temple with the exception of Hayden Szeto. Violett Beane is given some emotional room to contend with her character’s father’s suicide, but any ounce of sympathy we should have for her was flushed down a toilet when she starts acting catty around Lucy Hale’s protagonist on account they both like the same interchangeable hunk of muscle. And when your life is on the line and you’re STILL whinging about your lover’s preference, even while you frequently cheat on him for no damn reason, then that’s when my prayers for your end get a little stronger. Hale, for her critical role, is alright but not spectacular. I don’t think she could have saved the script, even if all the moronic elements were sandblasted off.
This is an absolute waste of time that offers nothing for fans of horror or suspense. For teenagers, they seem to have gotten a kick out of it in my theater as girls loudly whispered next to me “This is soooooo scary.” And at that point…I felt so old. Decrepit even. So for hurting me emotionally on top of being garbage, this film deserves the lowest possible…
SOME OL’ BULLSHIT
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