Invasion of the Snapchat Filters
Some horror films deal in torture porn; others are torture to sit through. Truth or Dare is, for better and worse, pretty much neither. Making no good on its manic promise of classic slasher grisliness, bar two yikes-inducing deaths, it’s nevertheless difficult to argue that the latest from renowned horror production company Blumhouse isn’t just a tiny bit fun to sit through. In an age of social media conglomerates and generational horror flicks, Truth or Dare could complete the Unfriended and Friend Request holy trinity and be renamed Attack of the Snapchat Filters: We’re actually a metaphorical amalgamation of this generation’s obsession with internet oversharing. Just kidding – it isn’t that deep. But the creepy Snapchat monsters are real and they will haunt your nightmares, dammit.
In this decidedly inferior Blumhouse production (the name behind Split, Happy Death Day, and the Oscar-winning Get Out), a clique of college kids head to Mexico for a final spring break together. After a week of drunken partying, the group are lured to a crumbling, backwoods church mission by Olivia’s new man-friend where they are goaded into playing a midnight game of truth or dare. There are a few off-beat moments and bad omens but it isn’t until they’ve returned home that they realise what’s happened: the demonic spirit of truth or dare has infected the game and it’s followed them home. If your reaction falls somewhere between the realms of “Huh?” and “Well, shit”, then you’ll be in sync with the audiences of Truth or Dare, which is the Hollywoodized love-child of Dead Snow and The Belko Experiment on prescription steroids.
The world of Truth or Dare is a place where teenagers are willingly led by a complete stranger through a hole in a barbed-wire fence in the depths of the night, claiming that their Spanish isn’t so hot whilst shrugging off signs that say ‘Prohibido’ in big red letters. It’s a place where the words “truth or dare” are written ominously on the back of a ‘Día de Muertos’ flyer to remind its audience that Someone. Is. Going… TO DIE. Unknown, foreign Mexican culture = SCARY SCARY DEATH, amIright?
The game works a little like this. Back on campus, one of the several flat/empty/pretty characters will be standing in the middle of, say, the university library, and fellow spring breaker will tilt their head down and burst into a leering smile which will issue the demand of “truth or dare.” If they fail to tell the truth, leave the dare incomplete, or refuse to answer at all, the game’s demon takes them swiftly through the back exit.
In theory, this should all result in a sensational slasher flick that could very well jive with fans of 2013’s You’re Next. Extravagant set-pieces of the likes of those in the Final Destination series are promised by the trailer, in what seems like an hour and a half of an increasingly scandalous series of dares and confessions which slaughters the group one by one. Instead, the tasty morsel of supernatural murder teased by the group’s first fatality (macho Ronnie refuses a dare to expose his genitalia to a crowded bar and trips to his death on a pool ball as a result) is abandoned with wavering confidence. There are a few more dares, but the film is more preoccupied with the “truth” – i.e. forcing its characters to peel back their hidden layers, as if they have layers to begin with (spoiler: they don’t).
Truthfully, Truth or Dare is a vaguely creepy soap-opera of revelations about characters we couldn’t care less about, but it makes for some good fun whilst doing it. Does Olivia, our protagonist and the group’s social justice do-gooder, love Lucas, her best friend’s boyfriend? Will Brad finally come out to his homophobic cop father? And what will happen when the game forces future med student Tyson to reveal he’s been selling forged prescriptions to college freshmen? What will happen is… not all that much. But hell, if it ain’t fun to watch them squirm.
Truth or Dare (2018), directed by Jeff Wadlow, is distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures, certificate 15.