Truth or Dare (2018) – Film Review

Blumhouse Pictures is a well-known production company, they mainly focus-on producing cheap generic horror flicks that appeal to younger audiences, and although there is the occasional gem in their collection such as: ‘Sinister’ or ‘Get Out.’ It’s definitely few and far between, with ‘Truth or Dare’ being one of their most recent entries, and easily one of their worst to date.

Plot Summary: After a group of young friends play a harmless game of truth or dare during their trip to Mexico, they soon discover their game has turned deadly when someone (or something) begins to punish those who tell a lie or refuse to do the dare they are given.

This now dull concept has been seen a thousand times before, as the idea of a group of teenagers playing an evil game is nothing new, as films such as: ‘Oujia’ prove. As the story plays out almost exactly as you would expect, making it extremely predictable throughout its runtime. The film is also one of Blumhouse’s least scary entries to date, focusing entirely on jump-scares without any attempt to build tension or create an eerie atmosphere. The film also chooses to use a ‘terrifying’ CG smile effect on the character’s faces to replicate them being possessed, and due to the low-budget of the film, this effect looks laughably awful.

Unfortunately, the characters and cast that portray them are no better than the cliché narrative, as the entire cast of Tyler Posey, Violett Beane and Sophia Taylor Ali are extremely bland. As all the performances throughout the film feel like nothing more than attractive models attempting to be afraid, with Lucy Hale as ‘Olivia’ being the obvious standout here, purely by elimination, which is more than likely why she was cast as the main protagonist to begin with.

When it comes to the filmmaking, sadly there’s no improvements here either. As each shot from cinematographer Jacques Jouffret is boring and uninspired, with the editing also being very quick choppy at points. All alongside the original score by Matthew Margeson, which is easily the most disappointing element of the film for me, as the soundtrack amounts to nothing more than your usual horror score, with the film’s composer having worked on many great films in the past such as: ‘Kingsman: ‘The Secret Service’ and ‘Eddie the Eagle.’

Of course, it probably goes without saying that the majority of the writing within the film is dreadful, with the script being overflown with cheesy dialogue, over-the-top scenes and stupid character decisions. One character in particular I hated was: ‘Brad’ portrayed by Hayden Szeto, as I disliked this character purely due to the way he was represented, as ‘Brad’s characterisation is purely built entirely around his homosexuality. Without giving him any further development beyond this, which could not only be seen as pandering to some, but also just simply bad writing.

Another issue I have with the film is the extreme lack of violence due to the film’s low age rating, as the film constantly shines away from graphic violence, always cutting to another shot to avoid showing barely any blood or gore. This is a huge mistake for a horror film like this in my opinion, as although implying violence can sometimes be more effective. In a film about a group of unlikeable teenagers getting killed-off, having some creative deaths is at least a great way to satisfy your audience.

In conclusion, ‘Truth or Dare’ is one of the worst films of 2018 for me, this overdone plot with annoying characters has little charm or entertainment to offer. As it’s bland execution and overall lack of anything interesting feels as if the film is truly nothing more than a complete cash-grab for Blumhouse Pictures. Overall, I’d definitely recommend you give ‘Truth or Dare’ a miss, as I honestly believe any viewer would find paint-drying a more enjoyable experience than this one. Final Rating: 1/10.

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What’s Wrong with Modern Horror? – Film Discussion

What’s wrong with the majority of modern horror films?

In my opinion, there are many different issues that modern horrors/thrillers suffer from now-a-days, although there are a few films that manage to avoid these problems, such as: ‘It Follows,’ ‘The Descent,’ ‘A Quiet Place,’ ‘Don’t Breathe’ and ‘The Void’ to name a few. The majority of modern horrors follow a very similar formula, a group of stereotypical teenagers do something they shouldn’t e.g. find a certain object (an Ouija board, a cursed book or dead friend/relative’s photo). Or a family moves into a new home only for it to be haunted by ghosts/spirits. These two plot-lines are the go-to for most of the new horror releases, despite being unbelievably drawn-out by this point.

Similar to how nearly every horror plot of the 1980s involved a group of teenagers visiting a cabin deep in the woods only to get slaughtered one-by-one at the hands of a psychotic serial killer. Sticking to stories that we have become so familiar to means that there is little surprise left for the audience, and the narrative soon becomes very predictable. Another issue with the majority of the stories that are told is the weak characters, nearly every modern horror has such bland characters it’s difficult to get invested in the story at all. Just because these characters may be killed-off doesn’t mean you don’t have to write for them, having some likeable or interesting characters actually makes the audience care whether they live or die, therefore increasing the film’s tension. Of course, hiring unknown actors who aren’t the most amazing at their craft also doesn’t help towards this issue.

Another thing that’s always bothered me in regards to the characters in most modern horrors, is the character’s extreme stupidity. The film actually falls less out of reality due to the characters being so unbelievably oblivious to everything around them. It’s understandable the characters would have some doubts the first time one of their friends die. But after two or three, it’s ridiculous the characters still haven’t figured out what the audience has half an hour ago. Even if their curious but not concerned, it’s nothing but frustrating and less-believable. This unbelievability also applies to the attractiveness of the cast, as although I think a film featuring a few attractive cast members is perfectly fine, casting nothing but models takes the audience straight-out of the story. A film particularly guilty of both of these things is the Blumhouse production: ‘Truth or Dare.’ As this film is a perfect example of the problems I have with most modern horrors, both in regards to their characters, actors and scripts.

However, it isn’t just the script or actors that’s an issue when it comes to modern horrors, the overall filmmaking of the picture is usually extremely bland. Again, due to the genre, some people may believe the filmmaking isn’t important. This isn’t true. The filmmaking can still be impressive while building tension and fear. ‘It Follows’ is a great example of this, the beautiful lighting, cinematography and original score all give the film style without taking anything away from the eerie atmosphere. Horror soundtracks are a huge issue for me when it comes to most of the films, as it is possible to create a great memorable score without making it just sound eerie e.g. ‘Halloween’ or ‘The Shining.’

Finally, we get to the biggest problem with modern horror, the classic jump-scare. Jump-scares only really came around in the early 2000s, but since then they have completely invaded the film industry. Not only appearing in horror but everything from action to sci-fi to even superhero films, they’ve now become almost a staple of modern filmmaking. I don’t believe they are an entirely awful idea, they can be used correctly every so often to shock the viewer, and give them a quick rush before the next scene. However, most modern horrors now essentially rely on jump-scares (most James Wan films being particularly guilty of this in my opinion), and I believe this is incredibly lazy. Horror should be about creating an eerie atmosphere, having creepy visuals and giving the audience some likeable characters to fear for. Almost placing the audience in that situation themselves, ‘Pyewacket’ from 2016 being a great example of this. Drawing out shots and using dark lighting/shadows and silhouettes etc. can all help build fear in the audience. Rather than just throwing ‘scary’ faces at the screen alongside loud noises to see what sticks.

The main reason all these bad decisions are made when it comes to the horror/thriller genre is mostly due to money, no matter how awful the majority of these horrors are, the reality is that they make money. As these films can be made on a very small budget as they utilise mostly unknown actors and very little CGI or make-up effects, with a target audience consisting of teenagers or horror fanatics who will pay to see the film, no matter how terrible the trailers may look. For example, the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ had a budget of only £11,800 and grossed over £151 million. The film only having an hour and twenty-minute runtime along with very few ‘ghosts’ even being displayed on-screen. ‘The Bye Bye Man’ also being another example. Having a small budget of £6 million with a gross of £21 million. Despite awful reviews from both critics and audiences alike.

In conclusion, modern horror films are suffering due to both a lack of creativity and a heavy focus on profit. I’m of course aware that film is a business, but in my opinion, creativity is the most important aspect, as without creativity film doesn’t exist. Horror is a fantastic genre that isn’t reaching it’s full potential a majority of the time due to production companies/directors not caring. There’s a reason a lot of indie horrors are praised, as they don’t set out to only make money, many of them are extremely creative and make amazing use of their micro-budgets. Although horror also wasn’t perfect in the past, I definitely preferred it. At least back in the 80s/90s we still had some creative concepts, from killer’s invading their victim’s dreams to murderous children’s dolls to even a hand-held documentary on teenagers finding an ancient evil witch in a forest. The possibilities were (and still are) truly endless. Hopefully soon, filmmakers and producers alike will look past the profit and truly see this.