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Please, stop me if you’ve heard this one – a year after a college party game ends in humiliation for an unfortunate geek, the group of friends responsible are invited to another gathering, only to find themselves trapped and tortured by a vengeful psychopath. As its supremely unoriginal plot suggests, British horror “Truth or Dare” really is a film without a new idea in its head, director Robert Heath (“Sus”) being perfectly happy simply to rehash the same kind of clichés that were already getting distinctly stale by the end of the slasher boom way back in the 1980s.
Making matters worse, there isn’t much else to the film beyond its tired premise, Heath showing an inexplicable lack of ambition, and refusing even to milk the ‘truth or dare’ gimmick for creative shocks or wacky death scenes. With the killer sticking to the exact same gag method each time (inserting a tube into his victim’s mouth, and making a friend choose at random between two taps, one of which will pour in water, the other battery acid), things rapidly get dull and repetitive, needlessly so.
Although the film does at times seem to be flirting with torture porn, it repeatedly refuses to put out, and on the gore score there’s very little to satisfy thrill seekers, there being only a few scenes of foaming mouth blood and assorted splashes of red. As a result, though Heath seems a fairly competent director and the film does enjoy some above average production values for this kind of thing, there’s simply no tension or excitement whatsoever during its slow moving hour and a half running time, and most genre fans will likely either have fallen asleep or wandered off long before its daft final twist.
Matters are considerably worsened by the fact that the film tries painfully and embarrassingly hard to court a pre-conceived youth audience, with some cringe worthy attempts at contemporary cool speak in the script, not to mention a near-spoof obsession with booze and drugs. Aside from Jennie Jacques and David Oakes, who stand out as an enthusiastically sleazy party girl and the entertaining psycho respectively, the acting isn’t great either – though perhaps the cast shouldn’t be blamed too much for this, since the script gives them very little indeed to work with, every single character being aggressively unlikeable and uninteresting.
Sadly, there really isn’t anything positive to be said about “Truth or Dare”, a film unlikely to be enjoyed by even the most forgiving or desperate of genre fans. Whist a lack of originality need not be a crippling flaw in horror cinema, failing to shock, scare, disgust or even interest certainly is, and Robert Heath never even seems bothered enough to do more than simply connecting the clichéd dots in lifeless, anemic fashion.
For the terminally curious, “Truth or Dare” is available on region 2 Blu Ray, DVD and iTunes via Cine Britannia from the end of August – though don’t say you weren’t warned.
Robert Heath (director) / Matthew McGuchan (screenplay)
CAST: Liam Boyle … Paul
Jack Gordon … Chris
Florence Hall … Gemma
Nicky Henson … Mr. Hautbois
Jennie Jacques … Eleanor
Tom Kane … Felix
Jason Maza … Jonesy
David Oakes … Justin
David Sterne … Woodbridge