A temporary setback for the powerhouse company.

The release this week of Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare represents a sad misstep for the company after so much glory. Still riding high on the mega-success of last year’s Get Out and the smaller, yet still-sizable triumph of Happy Death Day, the latest effort from one of the hottest houses of modern horror is plagued with a trite script, obvious foreshadowing, and a general lack of frights. Capping things off with one of the most franchise-desperate endings in recent memory, the minds behind Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (including all four of its screenwriters) clearly believe in their movie enough to ask: Story-wise, where does it go from here? Realistically, however, a more appropriate question should be: Will there be anyone who’ll actually care?

In Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, uber-humanitarian college student Olivia (Lucy Hale) finds herself dragged on a spring break trip to Mexico by best friend Markie (Violett Beane), Markie’s boyfriend Lucas (Tyler Posey), and their assortment of pals including functioning alcoholic Penelope (Sophia Ali), closeted Brad (Hayden Szeto), and med-school jerk Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk). Not wanting their final night to end, the group finds themselves taken to a deserted mission by another American named Carter (Landon Liboiron) through the promise of booze. Not long after arriving, Carter suggests a game of truth or dare to the group, to which everyone agrees. When it comes to his turn, however, Carter immediately bolts; but not before informing Olivia that because of some mysterious force, the game is real and that she and her friends are doomed unless they continue to play.

It’s somewhat apparent that Blumhouse was trying to capitalize on the success of Happy Death Day and the ways that movie managed to subvert horror conventions. But the secret to that film was that it never forgot to be somewhat playful while seeking to achieve its aims. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare is just so mean-spirited in its characters’ actions and motivations. You get the idea that no one really likes or cares about anyone else REALLY and that everyone is just in this thinking simply to keep themselves alive. These actions of course come from individuals so transparent, the script may as well have simply labeled its characters “jerk,” “drunk,” or “gay guy,” rather than bothering to give them actual names. Not that it would have mattered. The dialogue itself is so uninspiring, failing to register neither the brief moments of levity nor the “seriousness” between characters. However, none of this feels as tragic as the fact that the majority of the death scenes lack fright and/or suspense and tend to border on pure goofiness, particularly the dare Penelope is given to walk along the edge of the roof of her house while drinking a bottle of vodka. For a movie which riffs on the likes of Final Destination and The Ring, horror fans deserve and expect more, especially from the likes of Blumhouse.

The mean-spiritedness of Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare doesn’t just flow through the characters, but from the writers who unleash an unmistakable hatred towards 21st century youth. It seems there’s something of a through line amongst the various truths and dares proposed to the unwilling players which forces them to test loyalties and exercise some form of sacrifice for the sake of others. Needless to say, the script has the majority of them fail as alliances prove shakier than ever and nearly everyone tries to throw someone else under the bus, or in this case, the mysterious ancient force commanding the game. Even the movie’s ending (more clever than it has any right to be) falls prey to this. What could have been a test of true humanity and conscience instead becomes one of the most cynical comments on young people ever. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare’s ending had such an opportunity to go the other way, aiming for a more poetic and somewhat just conclusion. Instead, the ending is just as hollow and mean-spirited as the individuals on the screen, imparting a different sort of justice its makers feel college-age youths deserve.

There are no performances to speak of in Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare. The best any of these actors can hope for is that they don’t always try and come off as generic as the people they’re portraying. While some do better than others here, the experience at least allows the cast a chance to at stretch beyond the images crafted from their respective television shows.

I must admit that when Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare accidentally gets something right, a fleeting glimmer of what could have been is shown. A couple of the deaths are handled with a certain degree of flair, showing that the film WAS indeed made by people who have a fondness for horror films, if not an education of them. Likewise, the way each of the players’ turns present themselves (through the demonic faces of bystanders or even a fellow player) gives off a deliciously maddening aspect since only the player whose turn it is can see the occurrence. The company will bounce back from the direness of this enrty, financially and creatively. I’m convinced of this. Until then, though, maybe give Happy Death Day another go.

Previous post You Had Me at HELLO I MUST BE GOING
Next post Make it a Double: RAMPAGE & WILLARD