Thursday, December 7, 2017

Truth Or Dare - - Dares To Be Different

I was recently having a conversation with my little brother about the New Mutants movie coming out where he complained it looked like a PG-13 horror movie. Which it is, really. But I replied I actually liked PG-13 horror movies from time to time. You don't need excessive gore or nudity to make a good movie.

"Truth Or Dare" really hammers that point home. (No pun intended, no hammers were used in this movie. Pliers were though.) SyFy Channel movies are pretty hit and miss overall, so going into this one I wasn't sure if it was one I would end up finishing. I've ditched a lot of these half way through. I'm a busy man. "Astro Zombies M4 - Invaders From Cyberspace" won't review itself!

But from the opening scene, I had a feeling this movie would be special.

 Yes, "Pour The Acid Over Your Head." That is one of the dares in this movie.

"Truth Or Dare" is "Saw" Meets "Final Destination. We start off in 1983 to see the final round of a game, then fast forward to 2017 where a group of college kids decide to have a party.

Of course.

They decide to play a game of Truth Or Dare in the same house where 24 years ago 7 kids were killed playing the same game. After more than a few drinks, the kids start playing the game and suddenly can't stop playing it. The Truths (there's only two or three) and Dares pick themselves. You have a set period of time to "do the dare or the dare does you" as we are reminded over and over again. Although some of the later dares seem a little difficult to have done to you, but we'll get to that in a second.

The game goes on for three rounds within 48 hours. Dares range from putting your hand on a hot stove to playing Russian Roulette, so it's pretty much luck of the draw whether or not you get a dare you might survive.

This is what we call a "bad dare."

Due to dark forces, and I'm sure also budgetary constraints, the cast is trapped in the house and can't leave. Being trapped in a single location is a horror classic so it's expected to see a single location thriller. But spending 48 hours in a run-down house? I hope they brought toilet paper along with beer and condoms!

Not Pictured: A Haunted House.

Wait, what?

In an unexpected twist, the group actually does leave the house at the end of the first act. I didn't see that coming and it's a welcome surprise. We soon learn that the game isn't dependent on the house. It will continue to play out until the end. The game is being run by a demon who feeds off of deciept and pain so move away, hide underground, charter a plane. It will find you and make you finish the three rounds. The movie doesn't waste this opportunity and gives us dares like robbing a gas station and getting run over by a car.

Although, I do have to say the dare to rob the gas station doesn't seem to fit the "do the dare or the dare does you" idea. Sure, the guy who didn't put his hand on the stove was thrown by a evil force towards the stove and held his hand down on it. But how would you be forced to rob a gas station? Would you magically appear in one if you hid? The demon did supply a gun, so maybe it could send you to the nearest 7-11 against your will. But to be honest, everyone goes there against their will.

One interesting plot point is we learn that the group can share the dares. There's too much poison for one man to drink? Spread it among the group and make sure you throw it up on time. Hang yourself for two minutes? Have your friends hold your legs up. Easy Breezy.

NOTE: Not so Easy Breezy when the only other person in your room is a ghost girl.

Of course, the demon keeps throwing fastballs so even these tricks don't always work. Although I'm not sure a gas station robbery wouldn't have gone much better if the whole group had been in on it.

The movie runs an hour and half and, man, is it a nail biter. Or you would bite your nails if you weren't already dared to rip them off. And for a SyFy film, this flick gets very gory in it's half hour. Body parts get removed, teeth get pulled, brains get splattered. It's intensity is heightened because you don't expect it in a SyFy TV movie. It's also atmospheric with natural lighting of soft bulb lamps giving you enough light to see but the movie steel seems dark and creepy. Inside the house, the shots are all very claustrophobic. The director does a great job of making the audience feel trapped as well.

It's also raw to watch the torture because the actors really shine. They are fairly one-dimensional, but in the small, quiet moments the actors use to create the illusion they are real people. It's probably one of the best casts I've seen in a SyFy film and I watch a lot of these. The comedy guy wasn't too wacky, the jock wasn't too macho, and despite the very attractive female cast there was no bimbo stereotype. No one was the leader, either. They worked, and bickered, as a team.

Director Nick Simon has some really great shots in this film. He takes otherwise boring moments and turns them into visually interesting scenes. SyFy Channel films tend to not be too daring with their shot choices so it's nice to see some artistry.

Two former best friends having a conversation. There lives have been turned topsy-turvy by the game and this shot shows the isolation and mayhem of it all. Love it.

The distracting halo effect of turning on a cell phone flash light becomes an intense reminded at how trapped these characters are. As they say, "It's not a bug it's a feature!" NOTE: this character is about to get attacked by bugs.

"Truth Or Dare" is a fun horror movie that turns into a brutal film. It straddles a weird line between slumber party movie and torture porn, but it works in that area. I'd like to see this turned into a franchise but SyFy seems to focus more on creature features than this type of horror. But one can always hope.

Note: If you catch this on YouTube, you may think the ending is cut off. It's not. The movie just kind of . . .ends. It's an odd choice and one that did not set well with me at first, but my biggest complaint about SyFy Channel films is they almost always have happy endings. So I'll take it over everyone surviving.

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