Truth or Dare has one good thing going for it—a disturbingly subtle digital effect that hoists the corners of certain characters' lips into a leering, evil smirk. It's memorably creepy. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie can be forgotten in advance.
Stop me if you've heard something like this before. A group of photogenic youths – SoCal college students in this case—clamber into a van and take off for Mexico, where they've decided to spend spring break. Soon we see them knocking back shots and disporting themselves on festive party patios. In a tourist bar they encounter a broody American guy who suggests that they stop having all this fun and instead decamp for an abandoned mission on a gloomy hilltop. Naturally, all of the youths agree that this is a fine idea. When they arrive, broody guy has another suggestion—let's all play Truth or Dare. Another excellent notion, the kids decide. After a few embarrassing revelations, broody is compelled to tell his own truth—that he is actually offloading an evil game of death on this group in order to save his own life by escaping it. The kids—not complete fools, apparently—fire up their van and head for the border.
Back at the off-campus house they all share, they soon learn that…the game has followed them home! The words "truth or dare" suddenly start popping up everywhere: in an anonymous text, on the skin of one poor guy's arm, keyed onto the side of a car, or simply hissed in a voice that sounds as if it's emanating from the bottom of a grain silo. "The game is playing us," one of the brighter students observes. If only it were scaring us, too.
Along the way here, we also learn some biographical truths about these people that aren't really worth the time it takes to impart them. For example, annoyingly virginal Olivia (Lucy Hale, of Pretty Little Liars) has a crush on Lucas (Tyler Posey, of Teen Wolf), the rather dull boyfriend of Olivia's best friend Markie (Violett Beane, of The Flash). And pre-med student Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk, of Counterpart) picks up pocket change by writing illicit prescriptions for underclassmen. (Tyson also provides one of the movie's better PG-13 thrills when he suddenly breaks out in that evil smirk and jams a pen into his eye and then slams his face into a wall.)
Although saddled with a meager Blumhouse budget, Director Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) nevertheless finds ways to pad the movie. There's an overextended sequence in which we watch a drunk girl tottering along the edge of a rooftop above a spiky fence (and then watch, in great disappointment, as she fails to fall on it). Even longer is a silly scene in which the students consult an ancient Mexican woman who knows the secret of something-or-other but can't discuss it directly because her tongue was cut out of her mouth many years ago and she can now communicate only by writing notes (in perfect English, luckily). We also learn that there's a demon involved in the wicked game the students have blundered into, and that he has a name: Kelix (sp?).
The movie is depressing to watch because so little care has gone into it. The visuals are dull and the story lazily generic. The producers must be hoping that the young TV-based cast will deliver a solid opening weekend, but can they expect much beyond that? There's a large hole at the center of this picture where somebody forgot to put the scares.
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures