In the aftermath of the success of Scream back in 1996, low budget teen horror movies started to flood multiplexes. Some were good, some less good, but the formula generally found a culturally diverse ensemble of young characters, gradually being picked off one at a time. Arguably the peak of this was the Final Destination franchise that, at its best – that’d be the second one – was as gleeful as all this got. Where you were positively encouraged to sit there and work out not just who was going next, but how they were going to be dispatched.
It’s no small complement then to say that the middle section of Truth Or Dare, the latest low-budget horror from Jason Blum’s Blumhouse stable, captures the joy of the best Final Destination movies. This is the part where the setup is done, and where the horror fodder cast take it in turns to play the truth or dare game of the film’s title, knowing they face consequences if they don’t take it seriously. I found myself sitting there trying to second guess the methodology the film was going to employ, and having a raging good time doing so. That it employs some genuinely creepy visual effects work on the faces of some of its characters helps too.
The film itself sets up quickly, as we meet a bunch of soon-to-graduate university students planning one last getaway. They’re led by Lucy Hale and Tyler Posey, comfortably graduating to the big screen following their respective turns in Pretty Little Liars and Teen Wolf, and soon they find themselves somewhere they shouldn’t be, persuaded by a stranger to play the truth or dare game. Without giving the game away, once the holiday is over, elements of the game are not.
Director Jeff Wadlow – and it’s his first film since Kick-Ass 2, having spent time trying to get Masters Of The Universe and X-Force off the ground – gets us through the setup as quick as he reasonably can (he co-wrote the script, along with Michael Reisz, Jillian Jacobs and Chris Roach). A good plan that, too, as he knows where the fun of the movie really lies. The film affords space for build up to what it wants to do, and is willing to take a turn or two away from where you might expect. But generally, it’s designed to entertain, make you laugh, and make you jump a bit. It gets three ticks there, too.
Where it struggles is when it loses that focus, and tries to explain things. Go back to those Final Destination films: all you needed to know there was that death has a plan, and the characters were pretty much powerless to stop it. In the case of Truth Or Dare, the script makes an effort to explain the origins of the game, and in doing so, it bogs itself down with a final act that sees much of the air let out of the film. It certainly crashes through explaining things as quickly as it can, but conversely, there’s a lot to cover and wrap up, and it’s much less interesting than watching the engaging ensemble in peril.
Still, it’s a ride that comes to a stop in around 100 minutes, and I’d put it a notch or two above last year’s reasonably fun Happy Death Day. That said, Truth Or Dare arrives in UK cinemas just as A Quiet Place and Ghost Stories are also playing, and it’s a comfortable third place out of those three. But it’s still a blast of fun that’s worth considering.
Truth Or Dare is in UK cinemas from April 13th.