Truth or Dare is a divisive, and derivative film that falls into the ever-growing category of films that have the same quality of one of those cute cat YouTube videos. It's easy to watch but has absolutely no lasting power. Viewers will forget this experience as soon as credits roll. Put that with a decent video transfer and an outstanding audio transfer and you have a release that warrants a For Fans Only rating. Anyone else will find little to no enjoyment in this on-the-rails slasher.
In watching Truth or Dare I couldn’t help wondering why some films are accepted by most of us despite being derivative of other films, and others are despised for the same reason. Take the criminally underrated Edge of Tomorrow. Most people who have seen that film love it despite being a Groundhog Day set in the future. Yet just a year before we got Oblivion, another Sci-Fi film set in the future that is also derivative of other films, which people tend to dismiss. I will just state that I actually like both films pretty evenly, but I think the problem most people have is how the film (in this case Oblivion) takes plot ideas from many different sources, making the whole experience feel like a derivative stew rather than ideas being sprinkled on top for a little flavor. I will say that however you feel about the two films above, there is no denying that from first glance, Truth or Dare feels so derivative, so begging to be a cash grab, that it comes across as just feeling desperate.
Lucy Hale is an absolute Neve Campbell clone in the starring role of Olivia Barron, a girl so squeaky clean and one dimensional, it becomes her only character defining trait. Right from the very beginning, she tries blowing off a trip to Cancun with her friends so she can go help the Red Cross. Don’t get me wrong -- that is an admirable thing to do. But again and again in this movie, she makes the right choices to enhance her squeaky-clean façade. It’s almost as if she has the script in hand at all times, telling her the exact right thing to do, not just to stay alive, but to be absolutely sure she is on our good side. In fact, she makes one bad decision after being forced to go to Cancun, and that is to have her and her friends follow a guy she meets by the name of Carter (Landon Liboiron) to an abandoned church to play a game of Truth or Dare. From there Lucy, Ronald (Sam Lerner), Lucas (Tyler Posey), Markie (Violett Beane), Brad (Hayden Szento), Penelope (Sophia Ali), and Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk) are all thrust into a dangerous game of Truth or Dare that follows them all the way back to college. From that point on, the group of friends must play the deadly game to survive and no matter what, always play by the rules.
Ok, this is such a ridiculous premise that it makes Ouija seem credible. But with that being said, this movie actually has some interesting deaths that ride that line of being hard PG-13 and R. I can respect a film that is PG-13 and doesn’t pull its punches, and with the exception of a few scenes I really didn’t think about the rating. However, as you can see from the list above, we have a whole lot of characters that are mostly all lambs for the slaughter, but their deaths are extremely unmemorable. The type of horror Truth or Dare is going for is obviously for the Final Destination crowd. I am a fan of quite a few of those films and love the whole Rube Goldberg esq way a series of mechanisms will come together to make its kill. It shows the creators at least took the time to think about what fans are there for. But here we just have a spirit (or something) take control of you and force you to harm yourself or someone else, or you have to tell the truth that most of the time will lead to something nefarious. There is a clear difference there and unlike Final Destination, Truth or Dare takes the easy way out and goes for the most obvious kills always.
The drama doesn’t play on any level. I have already discussed how Lucy is a character who for the most part is as nice as can be and can do no wrong. So when Markie (Lucy’s best friend) gets pissed at her for things that have to do with this game that are completely out of her control, time and time again the conflict feels contrived and unwarranted. You add in an ending that contradicts the rules established in the first half of the movie, and what you are left with is a real mess. In the end I didn’t actively hate anything here, but wasn’t frightened or adrenalized by it either. I wasn’t insulted by its obvious cash grab nature, nor was I frustrated with how derivative this was. Instead this whole experience just washed over me, and when I woke up the next morning I didn’t think about it at all. Watching Truth or Dare is like eating a triple Whopper. It isn’t even the best fast food burger and provides absolutely no substance. And depending on your tolerance level it may even be harmful to your health.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Universal trots Truth or Dare out in standard fashion, with a Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy combo pack enclosed in a slip cover to hard cover keepcase. Its Blu-ray is a dual layer BD-50 Blu-ray, and its digital code is a Movies Anywhere digital copy that allows you to access the HD version of the film. When the disc is popped in, we are presented with a whole slew of skippable theatrical trailers before taking us to a main menu that lets us navigate from there.
Truth or Dare puts a hex on your television with a 1080p MPEG-4 encode that stands up to the majority of the releases on the market. Combining a 2.39:1 ratio and being shot digitally, this has all the usual advantages and trappings of a digital shoot. From the first shot of a car pulling up to a gas station, there is an amazing amount of depth. You can tell from a production standpoint this was an experienced shoot, with many expertly crafted shots. Detail work is also well done with shots of lesions and pores on skin tones that stand out with all sorts of gory goodness. Blacks can be a bit of a problem from time to time not dipping enough to absolute blackness. The scene where they first play the game in the run-down building, and another in an alley where a previous player comes into play are two examples where blacks stayed to the lighter side of the spectrum. But overall this is a fine mix with quite a bit of depth at parts, showing this production is actually better than its stale premise.
Universal dares you to say that Truth or Dare's DTS-HD 5.1 mix is anything short of greatness. This was an active and aggressive mix that I actually had a whole lot of fun with. First off, how many mixes out there will have a scene where a character will hear voices all around him but for the viewer it is relegated to the fronts? Too many for this reviewer to count! Here, all of the spooky voices and whispers cover the full field of sound, and in return it actually gives the scene more credence than the source material allows for. Is it a rote cliché to have every character hear voices before they die? Yup. But that doesn’t stop it from being a whole lot of fun in this case, because of the audio presentation. Bass response is heavy and used often. There are so many jump scares in this film that it should be a drinking game. Yet they are all met with the appropriate heavy thud that still gets you, even if it’s a cheap cliché. Everything here elevates the material, and gives it more credence than it has any right to have. This isn’t exactly reference quality, but it is the next best thing, and anyone interested in audio engineering should check this one out.
Audio Commentary - The director and lead actress team up for this informative commentary that is a lot more well-rounded than one would think. Wadlow handles the more technical aspects of the film while Hale focuses on character motivations and performances.
Game On: The Making of Truth or Dare (HD 6:49) - Your typical making of feature where we get a rundown of the production and scripting. Even the cast having fun playing Truth or Dare doesn’t stop this from being a pretty disposable feature.
Directing the Deaths (HD 4:15) - An interesting feature that goes into how each character's death reflects who they are. Unfortunately for the film itself, these character traits don’t come through.
Truth or Dare has all the telltale signs of a cash grab horror property. Its premise is so derivative that it’s laughable. It makes attempts to emulate better films like Final Destination. but where Truth or Dare truly fails is its lackluster attempt at both of those things. Deaths are uninventive and forgettable, and the plot contradicts itself in its third act. Truth or Dare is the absolute essence of disposable entertainment. But with a solid video transfer and even better audio, this would be For Fans Only, especially if you're a fan of the slasher genre that is accustomed to its dip in quality over the years.