Film · Review

Truth or Dare Review – Spook or scare?

We had the premier of our play. I fucked up just about every sound cue and felt awful. I suppose that’s the great thing about theatre, every evening is a new do-over. My mum’s coming to see it this evening, I hope she likes it.  I ain’t sure if anyone even remembers this Truth or Dare flick, I sure don’t.

I heard stories that Jason Blum gave this project the greenlight based purely on the concept. Like, they were throwing ideas around and somebody said Truth or Dare and he was like, ‘Sold, get someone on that script, there’s an idea there.’

There totally is, I remember playing truth or dare when I was a kid. I never did much, I wasn’t often invited to parties and when I was I were just about the least popular kid there. When the circle grows big enough to include the weird repressed queer kid things start to feel dangerous. I realised pretty early on that there weren’t going to be no edification in playing. It was going to end in humiliation, either something gross and physical or some truth would come out that I didn’t want.

Neither seemed like a particularly attractive option. I sat in quiet terror for a while, eventually when my turn came up I think someone dared me to make out with a girl, I don’t remember who. Besides, she declined quite emphatically and we never went through with it. It’s probably no surprise I weren’t invited to these parties much.

Jeff Wadlow’s flick don’t particularly engage much in that particular brand of fear. Their story about a game inexplicably haunted by a demon who will force the participants through to the conclusion chooses more to focus on a group of people who more or less genuinely like each other. They have to work together to survive which rather seems counter to the point.

The truths the film decides to load them up with aren’t the types of internal shame that rots from the inside they’re interpersonal. Like the first confession someone makes is that a different person is cheating on their boyfriend. Ooh, really putting a lot on the line there ain’t they? The dares just mostly seem like convenient ways to place the characters in peril, when we wanna be seeing these characters’ true selves.

To the film’s credit it do have a queer dude in it, a man whose struggle directly relates to his sexuality but disappointingly when the film starts he’s already out to all the leads. His plotline involves his controlling father who simply isn’t a character. He barely appears and seems to be mostly devoid of opinion. But of course the film elides his story. Emotional scars are less fun to see inflicted than physical ones.

I don’t know, maybe there’s people who can relate to this sort of thing. These pictures are so often about being a part of an in group who suddenly find themselves on the outside of society. Relying on each other in a world that no longer makes sense to them, in that way these flicks are meant to comfort rather than shake. No matter how bad things get there’ll always be people at your back.

It don’t ring true, life is messier and stranger now. An open world has drawn us around each other, everyone is now capable of living multiple lives and the opportunity cost of all of them is reducing. The posh white boy who’s an internet neo-nazi, the office worker who has a patreon drawing furry fetish porn. The world can be grand and nonsensical and people have real shit on the line. This film’s grandest failure is that it just makes it all boring.

Truth or Dare is currently screening in UK cinemas.

That lighting so extra
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures

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