Courtney Howard is an OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
TRUTH OR DARE
A kid’s sleepover game played by a bunch of smart college kids: what could go wrong? Everything – and boy does it in co-writer/ director Jeff Wadlow’s TRUTH OR DARE. From what tragedies befall the characters, to the craftsmanship behind the groan-worthy kills, clunky foreshadowing and laughably terrible dialogue, this gasser of a schlocky horror film should only be experienced on a dare. It’s a bit more knowingly campy than FRIEND REQUEST, WISH UPON and UNFRIENDED, three other brainless, bloodless PG-13 flicks lacking similar bite. However, the truth is though it might elicit a laugh from you in the ways any “so bad it’s good” guilty pleasure can, you’re not going to feel great about buying into this forgettable fodder.
Olivia (Lucy Hale) was supposed to be spending her senior spring break building homes for Habitat For Humanity. That is until her badgering blonde bestie Markie (Violett Beane) and their insufferable group of friends drag her down to Mexico. You know, the place where nothing good ever happens to college kids or tourists. On their last day of vacation, Olivia is hit on at a bar by fellow spring breaker “Carter” (Landon Liboiron), who lures her and the rest of the gang to hang out at a dilapidated church and play a game of “Truth or Dare.” The unwitting participants begin playing, but, as they soon come to find out, a deadly curse has now been bestowed upon them – one that causes them to lose their pals, lovers and lives.
With the exception of the final act’s decent twist (one that RINGS should’ve utilized – perhaps the writers were inspired by that film), the screenplay by Wadlow, Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz and Christopher Roach (working off a story by Reisz) is hot garbage. Not only is this not scary, thrilling or innovative, it’s ridiculously regressive when it comes the characters. If it’s not enough that Olivia getting negged is what begins this adventure, her big secret is cloaked in some deep-rooted misogyny. Markie suffers from Daddy Issues™. The pair’s struggles revolve around men’s attentions. Penelope (Sophia Ali) is a drunk who can’t make decisions without her boyfriend, Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk). Tyson is a lazy trope. Same goes for party bro Ronnie (Sam Lerner). Barely one-dimensional Lucas (Tyler Posey) is a dude you’d never believe two ladies would ever fight over. And the one genuine moment where there could possibly be heart, involving Brad (Hayden Szeto) and his allegedly homophobic father (Tom Choi), is robbed from us. This film is written by grief tourists and horror lookie-loos. Though it does yield some unintentional comedy at the strangest of moments.
Because the characters are unengaging, their subsequent inevitable deaths are without a satisfying punch. The kills are mind-numbingly dumb. Jump scares are the cheapest of the cheap. A character turns around and blam! There’s a person standing there. A character’s face morphs into the devilish smile – described by these writers as “a messed up Snapchat filter” (yes, that’s real dialogue) – and blam! This is supposed to frighten us. At one point, Olivia closes her laptop, and the scary music cue blares as Markie hands her a drink. Seriously.
Foreshadowing is another issue. Whether it be Tyson’s personalized pen that’s mentioned repeatedly, or when Olivia’s unspeakable truth comes into play, the writers’ attempts are ham-handed. Perhaps the biggest thing the picture never surmounts is its shockingly bad dialogue that visibly pains the actors. Hale relays to a pal, “What we’re seeing isn’t real, but the consequences are!” There’s another scene where Olivia says, “Thanks for coming,” to roomie Markie, who has to remind her, “I live here.”
As this film’s body count continues to mount, so does the audience’s desire to die. Unless you’re dared to see this, let this truth set you free.
TRUTH OR DARE opens on April 13.