When I was handed my vomit bag at the door of the FrightFest screening for Jessica Cameron’s Truth or Dare I was simultaneously excited and slightly worried.
Not worried that I would blow chunks at the splatter fest I was about to embark on, but that I would be disappointed by the level of gore on offer. Thankfully although the sick bag remained untarnished my expectations were more than met.
Truth or Dare really is extreme in the levels of the gore that it brings forth. In fact it was by far the goriest film at FrightFest 2014, fighting off some stiff blood stained competition with two bloody stumps covered in viscera and brain jam. So if you like gore this is the film for you, no question.
However, Truth or Dare does have more going for it than being a sick, slick low budget horror pic. Fundamentally the gore is a vital part of the plot, a plot revolving around internet sensations – the Truth or Dare Devils whose YouTube videos of painful pranks and dangerous dares have gained them viral stardom.
Made up of Jennifer (Jessica Cameron), Ray (Shelby Stehlin), Courtney (Devanny Pinn), Michelle (Heather Dorff), Tony (Brandon Van Vliet) and John (Jesse Wilson) the crew have built up a big fan following from the controversy of their videos. However, one obsessive aficionado Derik (Ryan Kiser) is extremely upset that some of their stunts are fake and confronts them on daytime TV.
Brushing off the weirdo berating them, the Truth or Dare Devils head to John’s remote home and prepare to film the next stunt. But Derik has followed them and he wants to give the gang a new set of dares, all of which end in emotional and physical torture.
The subject of ‘what people will do for fame and fortune’ has reared its topical head several times in recent horror films from the fantastic 13 Sins to Cheap Thrills and the inventive British horror Panic Button.
All of these hold a mirror up to our star obsessed culture where someone can go from obscurity to household name by simply filming themselves doing something stupid, disgusting, illegal or dangerous. It all devalues the idea of celebrity and reveals how base and barbaric humanity can really be to condone or enjoy such acts.
Truth or Dare takes the same theme but gives it a twist with the Truth or Dare Devils forced by their psychotic number one fan Derik to perform terrible tasks for real rather than make money from faking them. It is an interesting idea, reminiscent of the popularity of Jackass and the copycats it provoked who, although unpaid and unknown, put themselves in even more severe mortal harm just for a few online hits.
Armed with an unnerving knowledge of the gathered group’s secrets (which are just as excessive and disgusting as the dares he puts them through) Derik films his celebrity captives in a series of Saw-esque tasks from eating glass to cutting off their own nipples to shooting an apple of their friends head with a shotgun just for starters, uploading it all for the other fans to enjoy.
With lots of horrifying humor and uncomfortable laughs, at first ironically Derik’s biggest problem is that no one believes that what he’s doing is real, which pushes him to up the ante and take things into darker more disturbing realms of pain and humiliation with the film becoming more sick and serous as it goes on.
Filmed predominantly in one location in real time, Truth or Dare is well shot and well made. Jessica Cameron does a fine job with her low budget delivering excellent effects and action keeping up the pace throughout making it a great directorial debut. The cast of unknowns do a fine job especially Ryan Kiser whose anarchic performance marks him as an actor to watch out for in future.
Losing its purpose towards the end and diving headlong into torture porn territory, this really is a mucked up movie definitely not made for the feint hearted. But maybe Jessica Cameron’s point is to push the gore and the audience as far as it will go, and some horror fans will love Truth or Dare for that very reason.
Just don’t forget your sick bag!