Truth or Dare is the latest horror movie from Blumhouse, and, unfortunately, what could have been a surprisingly intelligent genre picture squanders its potential.
On their last day of Spring Break in Mexico, a group of friends follow a complete stranger to an abandoned convent to play a game of truth or dare. But when they return home, they find that the game is following them. One by one, the group is repeatedly asked to either reveal their deepest, darkest truths, or fulfill brutal dares. If they refuse, they die.
If you’ve seen the trailers for this movie, then you’re probably expecting a campy, somewhat silly, watered down horror flick. You’d be correct. Truth or Dare is very much a middle-of-the-road supernatural thriller. It’s not outright bad; it’s actually somewhat enjoyable if you’re looking to just turn off your brain and watch something you can only half pay attention to (especially for a PG-13 horror).
But here’s the thing: this could have been a movie where you wouldn’t want to turn off your brain. It was almost actually a philosophically stimulating experience.
At the start of the film, main character Olivia is bailing on Spring Break in Mexico to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Her friends need to go behind her back and cancel her Habitat plans to get her to come with them. Later, the first question she’s asked in truth or dare is whether she would sacrifice her friends’ lives to save the entire population of Mexico, or vice versa. She chooses Mexico.
The film is setting up a utilitarian theme; the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Olivia and her friends are put to the test when the game follows them home. Each time they’re asked truth or dare, they’re given a choice. Sacrifice themselves, or hurt someone close to them, or hurt a number of people even.
Truth or Dare is riddled with moral dilemmas like this. It could have led to some stimulating post-movie conversation. Do the needs of the many actually outweigh the few? When and why is it okay to sacrifice another’s life for your own?
Unfortunately, the film never does enough with this premise to kick off those conversations. The main characters never really seem to struggle with morality. They just come off as selfish dicks for the most part. Which, from a storytelling perspective, really makes them hard to root for, or care about in any way honestly.
In all fairness, and skirting spoilers, there is one moment where a character makes a tough choice. But even this moment doesn’t really have enough weight to feel important, and it’s almost immediately undercut by more selfish dickery.
Bottom line, Truth or Dare sets up an interesting premise that could have stimulated intellectual conversation. It could have been the new It Follows. But instead it squanders its potential and ends up another paint-by-numbers thriller. And with a PG-13 rating, it doesn’t even get gory or twisted enough to make up for that. Wait for it to hit Netflix and put it on late at night when you’re too awake to fall asleep, but too tired to watch anything you actually want to appreciate.