[Panic Fest Review] THE DARE

Just how far would you be willing to take a dare?

In THE DARE, Jay (Bart Edwards) is about to leave his family for yet another conference. It’s just for a couple of days this time, he promises his daughters as he sends them to get ready for bed. As the girls head up to their room, Jay embraces his wife. This is the last business trip, he tells her, then he’ll be staying home for good.

Unfortunately for Jay, the man lurking outside their house has other plans. 

In a flurry of confusion, screams, and broken glass, the stranger breaks in and knocks Jay out. When our hero comes to, he discovers himself shackled to the wall of a rusty windowless basement room with three other prisoners. They don’t know why they’re there. All they know is their captor wears a mask made of skin, and when he comes into the room, you do whatever he tells you to do. And what he tells them to do usually includes maiming and disfiguring each other.

As the torture ramps up, Jay and his fellow prisoners must try to unravel the mystery of their captivity before it’s too late.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good, old fashioned torture flick, and it’s nice to see a new addition to the sub-genre. 

While much of THE DARE will seem familiar to fans of the genre made popular in the early 2000s, writer/director Giles Alderson sets his film apart without completely reinventing the wheel. On the surface, all the tropes are there, graphic violence, heightened emotion, and more than a little viscera, but a closer look reveals subtle differences that set the film apart. Instead of relying on a subdued color palette of greens, grays, and browns, Alderson keeps the film relatively bright, letting the bleak, industrial setting convey the dread of the situation to the audience. 

Cinematographer Andrew Rodger also brings something fresh to the table, with dramatic shots that help raise the stakes visually. A shot of the torture room, surrounded in darkness like the stage in a black box theater comes to mind. 

The unsung hero of good torture films is the sound, and designer Ryan Nowak’s work checks every box. Nails scraping on concrete, meaty squishes of impaled flesh, and the rusty clink of metal restraints all mix together to create a soundscape that will keep your shoulders up around your ears. 

This is a fun film for folks who like their horror visceral, but there are times when the story trips on its own genre tropes. While the torture gags are effectively upsetting, the movie starts to drag a little as the film returns to them over and over again with similar results. 

But don’t let the promise of a little (or a lot) of blood deter you. THE DARE is a fun ride for those who like their mysteries laced with a healthy helping of screams, stabs, and slaughter.

Adrienne Clark
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