A party game gets nasty when a supernatural force takes its turn in the effective and partly unsettling Truth or Dare which will air on Syfy, yes Syfy on October 8.
Don’t be quick to dismiss this little film because of the venue, there’s plenty to like in its just under 90-minute runtime.
At first you’ll notice some character tropes being pursued but are never fleshed-out, filmmakers seemingly know you have met these characters before so why bother?
But this is a good thing because the movie wastes no time in getting to the good stuff.
Here’s the setup: A group of eight college students rent a house rumored to be haunted. The token soothsayer tells the group they are there to see if things “really go bump in the night” because the ghost that haunts the house was the loser of an evil game of truth or dare in the late 80’s.
Drinking alcohol from red Solo cups and gathered in the parlor, the group decides to repeat history and play the game on their own. Because how cool would that be?
At first, girls are dared to kiss, which they do, but things turn frighteningly awkward when one of the questions reveals a secret. The player initially lies which sets off a phantom text to everyone’s cellphone calling her out.
Distraught they look through the rest of cards, now written with an incorporeal hand to discover dares asking them to do violent things to themselves or each other, or face the consequences.
“Do the dare or the dare does you” it reads.
That is immediately put into play when one unlucky friend is tasked to put his hands on a red-hot stovetop.
He ignores it, but supernatural forces create circumstances in which he lands palm-first on the active surface element, causing his hand to peel away like taffy.
Another card asks that one of the girls then eat the burnt flesh left behind on the stove. Repulsed the girl refuses but the house eventually gets its way by shutting them in and blocking their cellphone signals. Even windows are impervious to their attempts at breaking out.
Everyone gets a turn, each request more dangerous, an added time limit gets things claustrophobic.
There aren’t just dares to do, truths are also a part of the game, with a disclaimer: “you lie you die”
A player learns this the hard way, the sacrifice finally allows the group outside the house, but the game isn’t over yet.
Truth or Dare is fun as soon as it reels you in and that’s pretty much from the get-go. I appreciated the brevity in some of the character development, the actors doing fine without a complicated backstory.
The accidents aren’t as serendipitous as in Final Destination, but some get really brutal as the movie goes on.
Original Nightmare on Elm Street alumna Heather Langenkamp makes an appearance, this time it is she who is facially scarred. Her purpose is to give exposition on what needs to happen to beat the ghost at its own game.
Her cameo left me yearning to see this understated actress in other projects.
Bloody, cringeworthy and fast-paced and body parts as collateral, the final 30-minutes of Truth or Dare is not for the squeamish. Director Nick Simon knows how to trigger viewers to watch with their eyes-through-their-fingers, and let’s just say novices to the genre are going to have a rough time in the final bloody reel.
Double-dipping into past genre storylines with characters to spare, Truth or Dare still satisfies thanks to good acting, piano wire tension and the conscious desire to find out how it all ends.
No spoilers here, but the finale is unusually intelligent for this type of genre, leaving open the wonderful possibility of a sequel or hopefully a successful franchise.
Truth or Dare is set to premiere on SyFy, October 8th 9 pm/8 pm central.
Truth or Dare stars Cassandra Scerbo, Brytni Sarpy, Mason Dye, Harvey Guillen, Alexxis Lemire, Luke Baines, Ricardo Hoyos, Christina Masterson and Heather Langenkamp.