Truth or Dare 2017
Six college kids find internet stardom when they make Truth or Dare videos with a violent twist. It is all fun and games until their number one fan decides he wants to play by his own rules.
Jessica Cameron and Jonathan Scott Higgins
Jessica Cameron, Ryan Kiser, Heather Dorff, Shelby Stehlin, Devanny Pinn, Brandon Van Vliet, Jesse Wilson
I’ve always thought the term “torture porn” was tossed around too liberally; it seems to have an immediately negative connotation, one that implies excessive gore with little or no plot. Horror franchises like Hostel and Saw are considered paradigms of the subgenre, but while both feature blood and guts a-plenty they’re complicated stories that take time to build characters, containing volumes of subtext. And, truthfully, the Hostel and Saw films are relatively tame when compared to the totality of what’s available to today’s gore-loving genre aficionados. I can’t argue, however, that there’s a brand of extreme horror that appeals to those with especially iron constitutions, films that intentionally push boundaries to their limits knowing full well they’ll alienate mainstream horror fans. And while shock is an essential part of the formula, only the shallowest examples of torture horror stop there; the best use this level of violence and viscera to explore the darkest avenues of the human psyche.
Truth of Dare, a Jessica Cameron film, is an envelope-shredding horror film that doesn’t give a damn about your delicate sensibilities. In terms of gore, it ranks somewhere in between Found and its infamous cousin Headless. In terms of nonstop, gut-churning tension, Truth of Dare is right up there with Reservoir Dogs and A Serbian Film. The horror comes fast and strong and never lets up; in fact, the intensity of terror and gore only increases throughout. Just watching the film feels like a subversive experience, and only a few will find the experience enjoyable. But this kind of cinema isn’t made to excite the imagination or provide an escape from reality; Truth or Dare is somewhat of an exercise in suffering. Those who can endure the ride may be left emotionally exhausted, but there’s a pay-off for the brave, those willing to gaze unflinchingly into the abyss.
Official Synopsis: Six college kids find internet stardom when they make Truth or Dare videos with a violent twist. It is all fun and games until their number one fan decides he wants to play by his own rules. Truth or Dare is released by Invincible Pictures who notoriously released the uncensored A Serbian Film and most recently Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers. The film is currently available in stores including Fye and Family Video, as well as online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy and more.
The subtext of Truth or Dare is deep. The film can be seen as a product (and a critique) of The Internet Age, especially as it applies to Millennials’ perception of entertainment, fame, self-worth, morality, and even reality. Like the questionably-motivated activists in Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno, these type gage success in terms of hits and views. Truth or Dare can also be added to the plethora of horror movies examining the inherent dangers of social media, like Unfriended, The Den, Without a Trace, and so on. It explores fandom run amuck, media manipulations, and celebrity worship, along with more taboo subjects like incest, rape, pedophilia, and gender reassignment surgery.
Truth or Dare also exacerbates a particular fear set by turning young-adult horror tropes on their head. While we often find a bad apple or two in any group of horror movie character (maybe a single illicit affair in your average crew), the “Truth or Dare-Devils” are a loathsome bunch one and all. Okay, some are definitely worse than others, but no one deserves a CNN Heroes Award. It’s the idea that those closest to us are actually our worse enemies in disguise; that our friends are actually our nemeses; that those we trust with are most personal selves are actually using this information against us; that those we would turn to in our weakest moments are the ones waiting to devour us. If all of your friends are actually your enemies, who do you turn to in times of extreme crisis?
According to IMDB, Jessica Cameron (who helms, stars, and co-wrote Truth or Dare along with Jonathan Scott Higgins) only reluctantly accepted director duties when a handful of others either requested she tone down the script or reschedule the shoot. Unwilling to compromise on her passion project, she stepped up and did what had to be done. Truth or Dare was shot over the course of 11 days, primarily in a single location, and has been making rounds on the Festival Circuit since 2015 (where it has received over 30 awards); but it only became available to the public at large when it arrived on DVD last January.
Cameron said of the release: “I am so thankful to work with Invincible Pictures on the release of my first film, Truth or Dare, which is very graphic in nature. Many distributors wanted to trim down the more graphic scenes for the release, and I did not want to see that happen. Invincible Pictures was excited about it in all its graphic glory which was important to me. I am very excited for fans to get their hands on the release, which is my original cut not shown till now.”
It’s definitely something fans of indie horror will want to pick up, along with anyone interested in budget filmmaking and horror made by women. If you think “The Fairer Sex” can’t bring the extreme like their male counterparts: Think again! If you believe depictions of violence against women are problematic, how do you reconcile knowing that this film was created by a woman who refused to compromise her vision? Suddenly, it’s impossible to condemn Truth or Dare as someone’s psycho-sexual male fantasy. Of course, Truth or Dare succeeds as a top-notch horror experience whether you take Cameron’s gender into account or not.
Cameron absolutely shines as the closest thing Truth or Dare has to a protagonist, but the entire cast deserves accolades for their combined energy and chemistry. It’s easy to believe that these guys really are friends in real life; their bonds feel real, which makes the suffering they subject each other to all the more harrowing. Ryan Kiser, Heather Dorff, Shelby Stehlin, Devanny Pinn, Brandon Van Vliet, Jesse Wilson: They were all fantastic throughout! Kiser deserves an extra shout out for playing the kind of unhinged, pitiable antagonist who gets under your skin—and festers!
Bottom Line: Truth or Dare is extreme horror that won’t go over well with horror fans who top-out with R-Rated violence. Even fans of the so-called “torture porn” subgenre may find this one over the top. Those who can handle the ride will be treated to an engrossing and emotionally devastating examination of the darkest avenues of the human psyche.