Truth or Dare
dir Jeff Wadlow
prd Jason Blum, Couper Samuelson
scr Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, Christopher Roach, Jeff Wadlow
with Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Landon Liboiron, Sophia Ali, Nolan Gerard Funk, Aurora Perrineau, Sam Lerner, Tom Choi, Brady Smith, Gary Anthony Williams
release US/UK 13.Apr.18
18/US Blumhouse 1h40
Truth or Dare
When games go wrong: Hale and friends

posey beane szeto
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Truth or Dare A cynical mash-up of teen horror plots, this movie tries desperately to be scary but is never more than faintly ridiculous. There are a few grisly moments, and quite a lot of pointless jolts provided by loud music and sound effects. But the plot and characters are so paper-thin that they're laughable, including the painfully corny mythology that tries to explain the premise.

Instead of building homes for Habitat, Olivia (Hale) is convinced by her best pal Markie (Beane) to go to Mexico for spring break with Markie's boyfriend Lucas (Posey) and their friends Brad, Penelope and Tyson (Szeto, Ali and Funk). Amid a montage of bars and beaches, Olivia meets the charming Carter (Liboiron), who invites them to a creepy abandoned church to play truth or dare. But after one round, the game gets into their heads, and they realise that violating any of the rules will mean sudden death.

The story structure comes straight from the Final Destination movies, as teens battle fate itself to survive. This variation is much more obvious, as super-smiley hallucinations force these young people to either confess a painful truth or do something ghastly. The screenwriters sketch in the characters in the most basic ways imaginable, as each has a simplistic back-story plus a romantic issue that feeds into whatever it is that pushes the game forward. But they duck away from anything interesting.

There isn't much a more experienced cast could do with this dialog, but these bright young actors give it their best, oozing charm and energy while pretending to take all of this seriously. Aside from the red herrings, there's very little real life humour to be found, which makes the shallow emotional beats ring especially hollow. It also means that, even within this reality, nothing feels remotely authentic. So we aren't terribly bothered when they begin to die.

All of that could have been overcome if director Wadlow had worked a little harder to entertain the audience. Instead he falls back on the usual cliches, mustering unsettling noises but nothing actually frightening. And it's impossible to sympathise with teens whose actions never reflect the fact that their friends are dying. Not to mention the the misplaced crushes, daddy issues, sexuality, parental expectations or addictions that are hinted at but never dealt with. And as the plot unravels in the final act, there's simply nothing left to hold the interest.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 12.Apr.18

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