I’m a huge fan of horror movies, and I think the biggest contributor to that fact is that they don’t really scare me. Some of them stick with me. Some make me think. Sure, some do make me leave on the lights in my house a little longer than normal, but for the most part — especially with blockbuster-esque, B-movie scary movies — they are just plain fun.
Horror is fun because it’s a direct form of escapism — more so, I’d argue, than any other genre of film. It makes your palms sweat and your heart feel like it’s in your stomach. Ultimately, horror movies make you feel alive, regardless of whether they’re good or bad.
Blumhouse Productions’ newest film, Truth or Dare, falls into the latter of the two qualifiers, but it still gets the job done.
Here it is in a nutshell: A group of attractive college students go on spring break to Mexico (including Lucy Hale of Pretty Little Liars, who is perfectly cast for this film, and take that as you will). Bad decisions and copious amounts of alcohol wrap up the gang in an accidental game of truth or dare with a demon.
Said demon then follows them home, prompting the spring breakers to continue playing the game. The turns of the game rotate through the friends. If one of them tells a lie or does not properly complete a dare, they die, sending the turn on to the next person.
The group of friends is slain one after another, unless they can band together to try to protect themselves and strategize a way to outsmart the game.
Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s pretty much the plot of any film in the Final Destination franchise. I can’t fault Truth or Dare for that, though. The plot of “hot young adults get killed off one by one” is pretty much a horror subgenre in itself.
The characters are immeasurably immature, none of them with redeemable qualities or drawn to elicit sympathy in anyway. The secrets aired in the truths, and the damage dealt by the dares, repeatedly turn Olivia (Hale’s character) and her best friend Markie (Violett Beane) against each other in dramatic, girl-on-girl, catfight action — when they should be, you know, trying to stay alive.
But the way the characterization functions in Truth or Dare is absolutely perfect for the type of movie it is. The horror films I actually find unsettling and thought provoking are the ones that offer up characters I can see pieces of myself in. If Truth or Dare’s characters were more realistic, you might actually identify with them — which, clearly, is not the point of this movie.
Truth or Dare embodies the specific type of escapism one seeks out from particularly bad horror movies. You get the jump scares and the thrill ride, all while clearly being separated from the asinine characters on screen. You get to say, “If I were in this situation, I wouldn’t be making those senseless decisions.” You get to leave the theater unshaken and unscathed, and probably feeling a little smarter than when you entered.
And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need from a movie — to go in, sit down and shut your brain off for two hours. Sometimes you don’t need to think about the intricate connections between art and life, and their relation to your existence and the world at large.
Movies like Truth or Dare are my guilty pleasure, just like Jersey Shore or bits of Taylor Swift’s discography. Sometimes you just need an entertaining, lowbrow, bad horror movie. Who’s in the mood for Hitchcock all the time? (Regal Cinemas, Cinemark 17)