Main cast: Tyler Posey (Lucas Moreno), Lucy Hale (Olivia Barron), Violett Beane (Markie Cameron), Hayden Szeto (Brad Chang), Landon Liboiron (Carter), Nolan Gerard Funk (Tyson Curran), Sophia Ali (Penelope Amari), Sam Lerner (Ronnie), Aurora Perrineau (Giselle Hammond), Tom Choi (Officer Han Chang), and Vera Taylor (Inez Reyes)
Director: Jeff Wadlow
It probably sounds great on paper: what if we have a bunch of teens be forced to play truth or dare – only, they have to say or do very, very bad things or a demon will kill them, ooh. That’s basically the premise of Truth or Dare.
Olivia Barron intended to volunteer for her last Spring Break before she graduates, but her best friend Markie pushes her to join her and the rest of their friends for one last hurrah in Mexico, the source of evil in about 80% of all horror movies out there. They get roped into playing this game by Carter, one of the survivors of the his own buddies’ game, and this game is controlled by a demon who will utter instructions through other people to these kids. They can only pick truth twice before the next person has to pick dare, and no matter what they pick, something bad will happen either to themselves or the people around them. Failing to succeed at either truth or dare means death, of course.
Let’s get this out of the way first. When the demon decides that it’s someone’s turn to play the game, the people around the target will be possessed into surrounding that person, uttering “Truth or dare!” over and over until the person chooses. When this happens, the possessed person’s face morphs into a smirking and, I suppose, evil expression and oh boy, that expression is unintentionally goofy, I have to laugh. This, of course, ruins any effort at immersion into this movie. The script has Olivia lampshades this by claiming that the whole thing resembles a “blurry Snapchat filter”, but come on, the end effect is still laughably bad.
Right off the bat, it’s easy to guess which one will die and which one will be alive to the bitter end. The token minorities and the asshole are as good as dead stereotypes talking, of course, as they have no personality beyond the cursory descriptions of sassy black girl, white asshole dude, and Chinese gay dude. That lefts Olivia, her best friend Markie, and Markie’s boyfriend Lucas whom Olivia has a bad crush on. Oh, don’t worry, Olivia’s not so bad because Markie is an unstable mess after the suicide of her father and she cheats on Lucas a lot, so it’s alright. See? The whole thing plays out like every formulaic teen drama. In fact, the whole thing devolves eventually into this tedious love triangle with the demon playing the WTF-kind of matchmaker to push Olivia onto Lucas’s pee-pee.
Lucy Hale is adequate in her role, as is Violett Beane, and the two ladies have solid chemistry with one another. And then there’s Tyler Posey… well, let’s just say that his acting chops, displayed here, this movie isn’t going to knock off his leaked playing-with-his-pee-pee video from being the highlight of his “acting” career.
The tragedy of Truth or Dare is that while its premise actually isn’t that bad (formulaic, yes, but that alone necessarily has to be bad by itself), the execution is pretty subpar. Those hilariously exaggerated faces of the possessed people aside, the script itself fumbles by becoming a marathon of people going through truth or dare. There isn’t much story, and as a result, there aren’t many reasons to care about this thing as this movie doesn’t even deliver good many death scenes. There is one cool scene involving a guy poking a pen into his eye and then slamming his face against a door to push the pen deeper in, but the rest of the scenes are just PG-13 rated snooze fests.
This movie, I feel, would have been better if the cast had been smaller, so that there would be more opportunity to showcase the characters a bit more and get me to care for them even a little before they are forced to play again. There are some potentially interesting angles here – Brad’s relationship with his homophobic traditionalist father, which ends up being sidelined for the white people’s drama, and the tragic interplay between Markie and Olivia about Markie’s father. All of these are sort of here, wasted opportunities that could have done wonders for this movie if they had been developed more.
Also, this movie is played up straight without any camp, so all the humor here is unintentional, thanks to those, you know, faces. Oh, and when the crumbling building towards the end begins to shake… oh, that’s so laugh out loud funny, although I suspect that scene isn’t meant to be that way. The people behind this movie probably wanted that scene to be frightening… and look, I think I’m going to laugh again just thinking about that.
At any rate, Truth or Dare isn’t as terrible as most critics claim, I feel, but at the same time, it’s far worse than it should have been. While the script is spotty, the two lead actresses put on a solid performance, and these their performances evoke the drama and the pathos far better that originally intended by the script (some of the lines these people are forced to say are really cringe-inducing and cheesy). I won’t recommend going out of one’s way to see it, but hey, it may be worth a look when there isn’t anything more interesting to watch.