By JAMIE BERARDI
Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Sam Lerner and Nolan Gerard Funk
Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, made on a budget of three million dollars, opened in theatres everywhere this past Friday, April 13. The film is directed by Jeff Wadlow and stars Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sophia Taylor Ali, Landon Liboiron, Hayden Szeto, Sam Lerner and Nolan Gerard Funk. Jeff Wadlow landed the directorial gig by improvising an opening scene after discovering the title of the film during his initial meeting with Blumhouse Productions. Blumhouse loved his vision and principal photography for the film began shooting on June 8, 2017.
Truth or Dare opens by introducing us to an impressive student housing complex, wherein our main characters reside while attending university. The group of friends consist of Olivia Barron (Lucy Hale), a YouTuber with interests in philanthropy, her best friend, Markie Cameron (Violet Beane), who is struggling with the recent suicide of her father and being faithful to her boyfriend, Lucas Moreno (Tyler Posey). Then there is their “day-drunk” friend Penelope Amari (Sophia Taylor Ali) and her “pre-med” student boyfriend, Tyson Curran (Nolan Gerard Funk), and finally, the most intriguing character of all, Brad Chang (Hayden Szeto)- their closeted gay friend. The group of friends head to Rosarito, Mexico for spring break. Olivia befriends a young man named Carter (Landon Liboiron), who convinces her to bring her friends to party with him at the old ruins of a nearby mission. Carter initiates a game of truth or dare and encourages Olivia and her friends to participate. Carter eventually leaves the mission and explains to Olivia that the game they are partaking in is cursed and if they do not continue playing by answering truth or dare, they will suffer the consequences.
The “vacation gone wrong” narrative has been done far too many times in the genre. If the scares and kills were more inventive and didn’t fall into usual horror tropes and clichés, the film could have had a more entertaining and engaging experience for the audience. By the second act, it becomes clear that this film was made for a very young audience, as the scares become less scary and the pacing of the film feels as if it’s heading in the direction of a “made for tv” movie. How the game asks the next participant “truth or dare?” was also very cheesy… and downright laughable. When it was time for the next protagonist to play the game, the spirit would latch itself onto a nearby person and use their body as a host to ask that fateful question. The host’s face would then become deformed, and they would ask “truth or dare?” in a “sinister” tone. The problem is, the tone in which they ask does not come across as terrifying at all and their “warped” face looks more like a bad Snapchat filter – which the film itself jokes about – than a terrifying demon. You know it’s bad when the film even jokes about it. I constantly found myself wondering why they even presented the “truth or dare?” question like this in the first place. Maybe this was done to capitalise on today’s youth’s obsession with enhancing or modifying images using filters. Another reason for this could be to show the audience that the film isn’t taking itself too seriously yet, it never comes across as campy. By the end of the film, these questions remained unanswered and left me feeling unsatisfied and disappointed.
I also thought that leading lady Lucy Hale who played Olivia Barron gave a very flat and dull performance, which made it hard to get behind her character. Her narrative felt like that of her character, Aria Montgomery, from her TV show Pretty Little Liars. Alas, it’s not all bad. Above all, I appreciated the strong queer representation offered in the film through the character of Brad Chang. Not only do we see a close-up shot of Chang lip-locking with another dude on-screen in Mexico (very progressive), but his role has the most development and presents interesting themes about sexuality and repression. Chang chooses truth when it’s his turn to play, and in doing so, the game forces him to live out his own reality and come out to his father. Chang’s coming out experience is positive, and to his surprise, his father accepts him as he is. I felt like this moment was so real and added a layer of depth to the story, that was lacking. Unfortunately, one strong character isn’t enough to save this mess, and by the end, you can’t help but wonder if the filmmakers ran out of ideas and decided on a “cop-out” ending as they didn’t know where else to take the story.