Truth or Dare
R1 - America - Cinedigm
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (3rd September 2018).
The Film

Merry prankster Carter (The Possession of Michael King's Luke Baines) decides to throw one of his special parties for his best friends med student Tyler (Flowers in the Attic's Mason Dye), his girlfriend Alex (Sharknado's Cassandra Scerbo), her childhood friend Maddie (General Hospital's Brytni Sarpy), rotund hipster fifth wheel Holt (General Education's Harvey Guillen), perennial party girl Addison (Power Rangers Megaforce's Christina Masterson), and jock Luke (Degrassi: Next Class' Ricardo Hoyos) along with his new girlfriend Jessie (Alexxis Lemire) in a haunted house where five teenagers died over thirty years before playing a game of truth or dare. Smartphone and stabilizer in hand, Carter wants to wake up the ghosts of the house and determine if the legends are true. Each of the guests writes submits an anonymous question or dare, but the "truth" Maddie draws reveals her one-time hookup with Tyler of which no one but the two of them knew. The others quickly turn on Carter when Tyler's "dare" is to place his hand on a hot oven coil, but they soon realize that something unnatural is at work when Tyler is subsequently supernaturally compelled to complete the dare. As they try to escape, they find themselves barricaded inside the house and a voice instructs them that they must play three rounds in seventy-two hours, and commanded to "Do the dare, or the dare does you" leading to Jessie being coerced by the others to execute the dare of eating Tyler's burnt flesh, and Carter taking matters into hand when Luke refuses to smash his own knee. When Addison draws a "truth" pertaining to her secret drug addiction, they discover that the additional rule that "If you lie, you die" when she is gruesomely impaled when she manages to get the front door open. Thinking the horror is over when they manage to get out of the house, they resolve to put everything behind them and return to school when the police dismiss their account as too much alcohol and partying gone wrong (Carter's video footage inexplicably offers no proof). Things are not the same however, with one friend dead and trusts broken between others; but the game has followed them and sacrifices another one of them to force the others to finish the game. As the injuries accumulate and more lives are taken, Alex tracks down the physically and mentally scarred lone survivor of the previous game (A Nightmare on Elm Street's Heather Langenkamp) who tells them the ancient origins of the game which exploits its players' fears, doubts, and deepest secrets, giving them clues about how they may be able to beat the game.

Predating the like-titled Blumhouse theatrical effort by a year, Truth or Dare written by horror film documentary producer Thommy Hutson (Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th) and Ethan Lawrence (Asylum), and directed by Nick Simon (The Pyramid) knows that its premise is cheesy but nevertheless barrels on at a fast clip and steamrolls over its flaws, making it passable entertainment (which is a quite an achievement for something that premiered on the SyFy channel). The college characters are defined by the very traits that the game exploits. The central trio of Tyler, Alex, and Maddie is entirely predicated on the "besties" relationship between the two women, and one of the standout inanities of the plotting is that Alex still harps on their betrayal amidst supernatural threats and the violent deaths of two friends she has just witnessed, as well as the lengths both her boyfriend and best friend will go to prove themselves to her in splitting the physical pain of dares between them (an ultimately thankless sacrifice considering the ending). The underdeveloped script requires these supposedly intelligent college students to be surprisingly dim so that the ghosts have to explain the game to the with messages written in blood, voices on unplugged television sets, disconnected telephones, and in the air beyond the written dares themselves; however, the visual effects are reasonably well-executed and the onscreen gore is fairly wince-inducing (although a few instances where the camera cuts away from the money shot may have more to do with how the effect turned out or not bothering to shoot it rather than any ratings or television standards). The end result may be more enjoyable than the Blumhouse effort not so much because of that film's PG-13 rating (presumably an unrated version will turn up sooner or later) but because of the TV movie's willingness to just work with same generic elements for an audience with low expectations.
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Video

A digitally-photographed feature for television, Truth or Dare's generically slick image is adequately served on Cinedigm's mid-range bitrate single-layer DVD. Colors are generally subdued in keeping with the look of modern genre films, and the overall dark look of the film aides the effects.
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Audio

The sole audio option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is front-oriented but utilizes the surrounds for sudden noises, whispers, some jolts, and occasional atmosphere. English Closed Captioning is included.
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Extras

There are no extras or start-up material.

Overall

The SyFy channel Truth or Dare may be more enjoyable than the Blumhouse effort not so much because of that film's PG-13 rating but because of the TV movie's willingness to just work with same generic elements for an audience with low expectations.
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