A silly game among friends becomes possessed in Truth or Dare, a generic horror movie that could have used a page-one reevaluation. One sits in one's seat as the plot moves forward, imagining the possibilities had the screenwriters gone whole-hog with the insanity of the premise by dialing back the theatricality and openness of it tenfold. Perhaps this premise, which holds a lot of potential, could have found its participants in a single location for its duration. Indeed, given the amount of melodrama present, that kind of treatment might have benefited the movie in significant ways.
Instead, while we keep the ensemble nature of the cast from such a scenario, the rest of the affair is startlingly unimaginative. It surrounds a legend that involves an old, Catholic mission located in Mexico, where the main characters have decided to spend their Spring Break. As the details of the legend are kept from us until the third act, this review won't go into any detail. In any case, one won't be surprised to learn that it involves the unleashing of a vengeful demon upon an innocent group of young people. That is what these movies generally provide to us.
The young people here include Olivia (Lucy Hale), her best friend Markie (Violett Beane), Markie's boyfriend Lucas (Tyler Posey), aspiring med student Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk), Tyson's girlfriend Penelope (Sophia Taylor Ali), and the gay-but-closeted Brad (Hayden Szeto). Each of these characters has at least one bit of baggage attached to them: Olivia has been harboring two major secrets from Markie. Markie has psychological issues following her father's suicide. One of Olivia's secrets kept from Markie is shared by Lucas (Do the math). Tyson forges prescriptions for freshmen at his university. Sophia drinks - a lot - during the day. Brad hasn't told his homophobic father about his sexuality.
We find out most of these things by the end of the film's best scene, which is the first game of Truth or Dare. The game is initiated by a young man calling himself Carter (Landon Liboiron), whom Olivia invites on a whim to join her and her friends in the secluded spot that turns out to be the abandoned mission. The game, though, follows them home and, through inconsistent rules, forces them to keep playing the game. The basic rules put a deadly twist on the usual: Refusing to play when challenged in any way (including lying on Truth, however embarrassing, or skimping on Dare, however morally and mortally perilous) causes instant, gruesome death.
It is a clever premise, and it is amazing how uselessly complicated the screenwriters (Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, Christopher Roach, and director Jeff Wadlow) have made it out to be. Sometimes, the game possesses other people, and elsewhere, it disrupts the players' sense of reality. In other words, it hasn't been thought out very well, and the concept of devising Rube Goldberg-like scenarios to kill the players who break the rules becomes increasingly cruel. So, too, does the withholding of a lot of truths for the purposes of melodrama, but of course, Truth or Dare just borrows that from the game itself. In that way, the film offers a good reminder never to play it.
Lucy Hale (Olivia), Violett Beane (Markie), Tyler Posey (Lucas), Sophia Taylor Ali (Penelope), Hayden Szeto (Brad), Nolan Gerard Funk (Tyson), Landon Liboiron (Carter), Sam Lerner (Ronnie), Aurora Perrineau (Giselle), Tom Choi (Brad's Father).
Directed by Jeff Wadlow and written by Wadlow, Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, and Christopher Roach.
Rated PG-13 (violence/disturbing content, alcohol abuse, sexuality, language, thematic material).
Released on April 13, 2018.