Borrowing bits and pieces of everything from Saw and Dead Man’s Shoes to revenge slasher movies like the original Prom Night and I Know What You Did Last Summer, Truth or Dare is steeped in cliché. While solid performances and some occasionally half-smart writing manage to make it a watchable B-movie, it’s bogged down by a senseless finale and an almost entirely despicable cast of characters.
As their first year of university comes to an end, a group of wealthy teenage friends get together to celebrate with copious amounts of drink and drugs. The party shenanigans shift to a game of ‘Truth or Dare?’ but while things begin harmlessly enough, it soon ends in injury and humiliation for awkward, nerdy kid Felix (Tom Kane). One year later and the pals have all gone their separate ways, but reunite when they receive invites to Felix’s birthday party at a lavish, secluded country manor. Things quickly take a turn for the weird when they find the manor deserted and the birthday boy is nowhere to be found. When Felix’s former army brother Justin (David Oakes) pops up and leads them all to a cabin in the woods for another game of ‘Truth or Dare?’ it becomes clear that he has more sinister intentions than simply being a polite, entertaining host.
Where Truth or Dare stumbles most notably is in neglecting to give us someone to root for. The core characters are all insipid, entitled rich kids who’re varying degrees of horrid, while the villain is a nutty, malicious homophobe from an even more loaded family. The script harps on about wealth and entitlement so much and so often that it’s hard not to think that writer Matthew McGuchan initially had something sly and scathing to say about smug rich folk, but he quickly loses interest and nothing ever comes of it. With no real investment in who makes it out alive, the stakes are instantly set insanely low as everyone tries half-heartedly to outwit and escape their captor.
The script occasionally coaxes some believable dialogue and intelligent moments from the cast, but for every smart character moment, there’s a least four of head-scratching stupidity. Paul (Liam Boyle), who spends almost the entire movie strapped to a chair in agony, is practically the audience surrogate, yelling out simple, logical and effective strategies for escape only for every other character to ignore him entirely and continue acting like bumbling retards. In clichéd slasher movie fashion, characters blithely ignore numerous opportunities to easily overpower and/or kill their murderous kidnapper for no real reason other than to prolong the runtime until a preposterously dumb ending, while a ridiculous bit of Stockholm Syndrome from one of the gang only makes things sillier.
The script loses interest in its ‘torture game’ setup shockingly fast, but there’s a few effective moments of bloodshed and horror as director Robert Heath does a solid job filming the action with finesse. The cast do a great job at picking up the slack, and while their characters are never remotely likeable, the actors at least bring their ‘A’ game in making them all watchable, with a sultry, alluring turn from Jennie Jacques as the group’s resident bitchy temptress and David Oakes’s effectively batty, sinister performance as the slightly foppish, posh psychopath being the standouts.
Pacier than Demons Never Die and far more engaging and well-made than dreck like Tormented, Truth or Dare is a cut above the rest of Britain’s modern teen horror outings, but sadly not by much. A capable cast, a couple of well-staged, bloody set-pieces and a fast pace make it a watchable late-night horror flick, but it’s steeped in the kind of mindless cliché, insipid characters and daft twists you’d expect from your average B-movie slasher.
The DVD includes the following special features:
Truth or Dare is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.
Click here to order the DVD from Amazon.co.uk.