“Truth or Dare” (2016): A Film For the Brave, In A Good Way

There comes a point where we all want to be entertained and are willing to watch someone else get hurt in the process in order to meet that end. Sure, we may say that it’s not real — after all, no one is certainly that stupid to try some of the stunts performed on the internet. For the ones that are that questionable to subject themselves to that type of abuse for the sake of viewers, we shake our heads, laugh at the outrageousness, cringe, and console ourselves with the knowledge that they signed up for this in a quest for fame. But… what if they didn’t? What if the stunts were unwilling, humiliating and designed to hurt you?

Those are the questions writer/director Jessica Cameron (Mania, The Sleeper, Run Like Hell) poses to us as we watch her new thriller, Truth or Dare. In the film, a group of six friends — Jennifer (Cameron), Michelle (Heather Dorff, of Scream Queen Stream, Spades, and Dark Realm), Ray (Shelby Stehlin of 90210 and Glee), Courtney (Devanny Pinn of House of Manson, Crossbreed, and Escape From Ensenada), Tony (Brandon Van Vliet of Up North and Hunting Buddies) and John (Jesse Wilson of Perception and 7 Lives Xposed) — run a popular internet show in by same name as the film. The group picks up a super-fan in the form of Derick (Ryan Kiser of Bigger Than the Beatles, House of Manson and Lillith), who makes it clear to this group that he’s here to improve their show and up the ante.

First and foremost: Cameron and co-writer Jonathan Scott Higgins (Mania, Turn Off Your Bloody Phone) have delivered a concept that is both thought-provoking and relevant. In the age of instant uploads and look-at-me social media numbers, the need for publicity is a subject which we’ll be discussing for years to come. On the flip side of that coin, the extremes to which our group hides behind public personas — the need for privacy, and the growing realization that it’s going buh-bye — will haunt you because it’s real and it has the chance to impact you as you yourself struggle to carefully shield a private life with a public face. Cameron and Higgins deliver unto us exactly what can go wrong when one is used to mask the other.

The scariest part of that equation comes in the form of villain Derick, who is played very well by Kiser. Kiser reminds me quite a bit of Jeremy Davies (Lost, Spanking the Monkey). In fact, I’d go so far as to say I like him better than Davies because he doesn’t do that Intense Actor Squint coupled with the dreaded Mumbling Acting. Kiser obviously had fun with this role, which makes his turn that much more impactful. Derick is effectively creepy, which means that the film doesn’t have to rely as heavily on gore.

However, that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t without gore or issues. At times, Truth or Dare is harmed by both the steadfast adherence to theme and the gore it does choose to employ. In the name of blunt honesty: this film starts early with the torture and keeps going for its entire duration. Some of the revelations are cliché, while others come through very early on in the film. Cameron doesn’t show us every tiny detail, but what she doesn’t lack in is endurance. Cameron forces us to endure the ordeal with our group, and after a while, it gets exhausting: after the one-hour mark, you begin to wonder when the screaming and mutilation is going to end.

One can’t help but wonder if this isn’t her point. At times gross, at times disturbing, Cameron isn’t afraid to go to an uncomfortable place. Despite the fatigue at the end, you have to give credit to someone that causes you to feel something in the age of doubting the authenticity of storytelling.

Truth or Dare 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Erin Miskell
Erin Miskell is a horror fan that hails from the Western New York region. A love of Poe at a young age turned into exposure to Vincent Price, which lead to a deep love of classic horror films. International horror from France and South East Asia has become a staple of her diet, which mixes well with her tendency to gravitate toward shlock horror and comedy. Erin loves to analyze films and their meanings, and does so at her site, The Backseat Driver Reviews (www.thebackseatdriverreviews.com). When not watching or writing about film, you can find her listening to music and spending time with her children.