Truth or Dare (2018) – 31 Days of Horror: Oct 06

by Jovial Jay

Truth or Dare piqued the interest of both my wife and myself when the trailers came out last year. I didn’t have time to view it at that time. Fortunately I have the ability to watch it this year.

Truth or Dare seems to be following a trend of being named after college party games, including Would You Rather, and Ouija!

Before Viewing

Based on the trailer below, it appears that a young boy brings a group of strangers – friends of the girl he picked up – to a remote location, for them to be sacrificed. The group plays Truth or Dare, a game where participants pick telling a truth about themselves or performing a dare suggested by the others, but with horrific consequences.

Characters seem to be possessed by some entity that chooses whether they should say a truth or take a dare. If they abstain from a choice, they are killed. The consequences of playing however seem no less inconsequential. Dare’s seem to culminate in the death of the player. And the game continues until only one player is left.

It reminds me of a mash-up of Final Destination, where a group of students are killed off one-by-one after avoiding some kind of mass disaster, and It Follows, about a mysterious entity that stalks an “infected” person, unless that can have sex with someone else and transfer the curse. We’ll see how horrific this becomes, and that’s the truth!

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - HalloweenAfter Viewing

Truth or Dare works itself out much like you see in the trailer. A group of 7 college seniors go to Mexico on Spring Break. Olivia (Lucy Hale) had planned to work with Habitat for Humanity during the week, but was basically tricked into coming by her best friend Markie (Violett Beane). Olivia hooks up with “Sam” (Landon Liboiron) who invites the whole gang to a dilapidated church to play a game of truth or dare. The group has fun playing the game, until they realize that Sam has tricked them into coming to play to stop himself from dying.

The curse of the game returns with the friends back to Southern California, as each person is asked by a mysterious, demonic voice, to play truth or dare. Some choose truth, like Olivia, and blurt out a secret that hurts Markie in the middle of a busy library. Others choose dare, like Ronnie (Sam Lerner). Unfortunately he chickens out at the last minute and is possessed by the demon, and killed.

The group finds out the rules: that if you pick truth or dare you must complete the challenge, or be killed. They also discover later that only two truths are allowed to be picked in a row, and that the third person asked will be forced to perform a dare. The game continues killing off the friends, in clever and horrific ways, until Olivia discovers the key is getting the person who started the game, “Sam,” who is really named Carter – to return to the church, and perform a ritual.

Olivia, Carter, Markie, and her boyfriend, Lucas (Tyler Posey) return to the church to force Carter to perform the incantation. Unfortunately Lucas and Carter are both killed, so the only way to stop the game is for Olivia and Markie to die. In a striking change of character, Olivia chooses to save her friend, and asks anyone watching her popular YouTube channel to join the game, thus damning a large population of the world into playing until they die!

I needed to find somebody with friends, that I could trick into coming here. I could tell Olivia was an easy target. I brought you all up here because, I am okay with strangers dying if it means I get to live.” – Carter

Truth or Dare is an interesting premise as are many films with supernatural occurrences that the main characters don’t understand. Unfortunately the complexity of the rules that the filmmakers set up for the demon, Calux, are too complex, and detract from what could be a much more terrifying film. Just when you think the group has an upper hand, a new rule comes into play, all to be explained by backstory, tertiary characters or in the final challenge, the demon itself.

However, I did find the ending unexpected and surprising. Olivia has stated, in the very first round of truth or dare, that she would sacrifice all her friends, in order to save the population of Mexico. This, paired with her YouTube channel, which is all about her working with the non-profit, Habitat for Humanity, sets her up as a pragmatic character that understands the needs of the many are greater than the needs of the one. She also mentioned to Markie that they were friends for life, having gone through some very difficult times together. So Olivia’s final choice is not completely out of character, but given the on again/off again friendship the two share through this whole ordeal, it is surprising that Olivia unleashes this plague upon the world.

I’ve been trying to figure out what the filmmakers were going for, thematically, with this storyline. The best thing I could come up with was it’s a take on the two sides of social media – the gossip and brutal confessionals vs the shocking, viral videos. It’s not a surprise that Ronnie’s death is seen by the friends on their phones, filmed and distributed by an on-looker. Olivia casts her final “request” for people to join the game via her YouTube channel, as invites can only be made from inside the church. This mimics the way that photos and videos can “go viral” which may injure friendships, destroy individuals, and present information out of context to the Internet.

Assorted Musings

  • This film was one of the many horror films produced by Blumhouse Productions to carry the PG-13 rating. As far as teen-related horror films go, I’d recommend Happy Death Day, a sort-of Groundhog Day-esque thriller, which is a much more engrossing film.

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