Film Review: “Truth or Dare” Offers but Mild Entertainment

Film poster: “Truth or Dare”

Truth or Dare (Jeff Wadlow, 2018) 1½ out of 4 stars.

Hardly a masterpiece, either of cinema or even its own horror genre, Truth or Dare still offers a few entertaining moments here and there, though the sum total of those do not a successful narrative enterprise make. With an appealing-enough cast headlined by Lucy Hale (Aria on ABC Family/Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars) and Violett Beane (Slash), with decent supporting work from the likes of Tyler Posey (Scott on MTV’s Teen Wolf) and Hayden Szeto (The Edge of Seventeen), there is nothing so terrible here that a better script couldn’t fix. Unfortunately, what we mostly get is weak set-up and foreseeable deaths, though the film is not without some occasionally surprising plot turns.

Hale plays Olivia, so studious now that college is done that she refuses to take off for Spring Break with bestie Markie (Beane). Instead, she wants to build houses for Habitat for Humanity … until Markie pulls a fast one that leaves her no choice. So down to Mexico they go, to party hardy the trip away while the oddly single Olivia pines after Markie’s beau Lucas (Posey) and hangs out with gay Brad (Szeto), who quickly abandons her, as well, in search of dates of his own. Soon, however, Olivia meets a stranger – another college student – who invites her and her friends for a drink in an abandoned cathedral on a hillside behind a fence clearly marked “prohibido.” Hey, what could go wrong, right?

A lot, as it (predictably) turns out. A seemingly innocuous game of “truth or dare” is suddenly hijacked by a sinister force that follows our heroes back home, and before long people are dying. This is, after all, expected, given the type of film it is, and for a short bit we marvel at a certain inventiveness in how writer (one of them)/director Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) manages the mayhem. Once our friends start tracking the source of their troubles, however, the absurd premise becomes distractingly even more so, though the mean-spirited ending is a welcome twist. It’s not great, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

Lucy Hale, as Olivia, with Tyler Posey, as Lucas, right behind her, in Blumhouse Productions’ TRUTH OR DARE. @Universal Pictures

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About chrisreedfilm

Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. He is the lead film critic at hammertonail.com, an online magazine devoted to independent cinema; a regular film critic at filmfestivaltoday.com; the host of Dragon Digital Media’s award-winning "Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed"; a regular film commentator for the "Roughly Speaking” podcast with Dan Rodricks at "The Baltimore Sun"; an occasional writer for the magazine bmoreart.com; and the author of "Film Editing: Theory and Practice." In addition, starting in January, 2018, he is one of three co-creators, along with Summre Garber of Slamdance and Bart Weiss of Dallas VideoFest, of "The Fog of Truth" (fogoftruth.com) – available on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher – a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.
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