Movie Review: TRUTH OR DARE (2017)

Growing up with three siblings, I took part in more games of “Truth or Dare” than I care to even remember. We were idiots, so those games often consisted of drinking disgusting concoctions of kitchen condiments, embarrassing the hell out of ourselves, or just putting generally gross shit in our mouths. As a victim of all of the above and more, I don’t particularly look back on those games fondly. However, I’d take every bit of it on a million times over if it meant that I’d never have to participate in the game I just witnessed.

TRUTH OR DARE was directed by Nick Simon (The Girl in the Photographs) from a script by Thommy Hutson and Ethan Lawrence. The film follows eight college friends who spend the night in a haunted house, playing the game that gained the house a terrifying reputation. In doing so, they unleash an evil entity that forces them to commit especially brutal acts to themselves and each other.

From a critical standpoint, this film is absurd. There’s no real explanation for why and how these events are taking place, and for some, this detail may prove distracting and difficult to ignore. If you’re able to overlook that flaw, however, you’ll surely find TRUTH OR DARE to be as fun as I did. Simon’s film doesn’t so much play for scares as it does for entertainment and cringe-worthy moments. Although the presented story follows familiar beats – think Final Destination – it remains fast and fresh enough to keep viewers interested for an hour and a half.

The young cast proves quite likeable, although their characters are relatively one-note. They make the decisions you expect them to make, which, at times, feels true to their character arc, but can often feel lazy as well. The performances themselves, however, effectively keep the viewer invested in the surface-level characters, especially Cassandra Scerbo, Brytni Sarpy, and Mason Dye. While each actor is serviceable, these three stand out with a natural charisma and chemistry in lighter scenes, and they are equally terrific during the dramatic moments of the film. Horror flicks of this caliber typically offer characters that we couldn’t care less about, but these performances keep us rooting for the friends throughout the film’s entirety.

As for flaws, there are a few takeaways that are worth noting. Heather Langenkamp of Elm Street fame appears briefly in TRUTH OR DARE to offer some exposition, and while it was nice to see one of the horror genre’s favorite actresses, the character herself solely exists as a horror trope. I also found the moments away from the house to be less compelling than the time spent within it, and the abrupt ending to be particularly weak. Still, Simon’s film remains fun and highly entertaining throughout, and I can see TRUTH OR DARE appealing to a broad audience of horror lovers. It’s worth checking out.

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