On elementary school playgrounds across the country, the horrifying game of truth or dare is played by children in droves. It’s a memory that would make any rational person cower in terror. At least, that’s what director Jeff Wadlow had in mind when he decided to piece together Blumhouse Production’s’s latest film Truth or Dare.
The film tells the story of several college-age friends who come into peril during their spring break trip to Mexico. After following a mysterious stranger to an abandoned church and playing a volatile game of truth or dare, these friends are forced to keep playing the game or risk death by demonic possession.
Truth or Dare is exactly what one would expect out of a standard PG-13 horror movie aimed at the tweens who aren’t allowed into R-rated films. The story is shallow and the characters are thinly fleshed out. Meanwhile, lazy jump scares and ham-fisted references to popular social media like Snapchat are over-flowing from this on-screen mess.
For starters, the film simply isn’t that scary. Most of the surprise scares are pretty lackluster since the PG-13 rating precludes the movie from containing any particularly gruesome sequences. In lieu of a tight script and editing that actually creates suspense, the film tries for frequent jump scares that have very little effect on the audience.
Furthermore, whenever the demon possesses one of the characters, they stare dead ahead at the camera with giant eyes, grinning ear to ear in an attempt to terrify. This face has the opposite effect, however. It’s fairly funny to watch the actors do their best impression of, as they describe it, “a crappy snapchat filter.”
The so-called horrifying element—the demon and his game—is also very poorly developed. The rules of “the game” are inconsistent, which hurts the plot overall. The demon, whose name is mentioned only near the end of the movie, is similarly barely explored and has very little backstory.
The film’s mediocre plot isn’t redeemed by its characters. Though the acting of the stars isn’t terrible, the characters are single-dimensional. The leading actress, Lucy Hale, who plays Olivia, was genuinely convincing for a few moments of emotional turmoil but the miserable quality of the script limited the actress to a flat role. As the relationships of the students become strained and the game gets more serious, what should be a terrifying journey into the minds of the characters falls flat because the audience is never compelled to care about them.
When the characters picked ‘truth’ as an option in the game, they were forced to admit terrible secrets that were kept from the rest of the group. Since this put tension on the relationships in the movie, the task to work as a team became more difficult. Due to the script’s failure to establish friendships early on, the audience had a hard time caring about the bonds between characters deteriorating.
Characters are shown being awful to each other early on during the film, so their friendships aren’t convincing when the demon tests their bonds. Each character has a relatively limited backstory, and the film only occasionally explores these backstories in a way that causes the audience to feel connected to a character.
Though the cinematography of the film does not seem particularly unique, the cinematographer seemed to take care in the task of filming, unlike the apathy that the editors and writers had towards performing their tasks for the production of the film. There are a few moments, most noticeably during the opening credits, shot exclusively on the Snapchat app. This comes off largely as pandering to the youth of the audience. The musical score isn’t memorable, and the editing largely fails to add to the horror.
Whatever spark that the premise of Truth or Dare held sputtered and died out early in the movie. The plot’s potential was squandered in shoddy execution. Overall, this movie fails to scare or entertain in any way and certainly isn’t worth the price of a ticket stub.