FIRST LOOK: Demonic Influence takes over Truth or Dare

Updated 2 years ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
FIRST LOOK: Demonic Influence takes over Truth or Dare

Have you heard the phrase tiptoeing through the tulips? It might be best applied to the barefootin' "A Quiet Place," but for "Truth of Dare" it's more like a gradual nudge and push (not enough) into acceptance of the premise. It's a mostly emotional "try on" set of circumstances --- what's that? A female friend once told me that dating was like trying on and breaking in a pair of shoes. A comparison to quick tests of shower and swimming temps makes sense too , as does comparison to installation and clean up projects which often start wimpy then turn into a mushroom cloud.

"Truth or Dare's" premise can best be equated to the "games" played with ouija boards. A loosely "Jumanji" interactive process turns the game into a terrifying journey to escape a curse --- one that shakes up relationships be it on a "truth" or "dare" demand.

The film begins simply with a group of college upperclassmen (and women) taking their last "spring break" into a rural section of Mexico, where after the beer bars shut, they accept an invitation to explore a remote location where they can continue guzzling and public displays of affection.

Their destination : The grounds of an abandoned 1896 mission where only a few wrinkled photos of a priest underscore the venue may have been a place of worship.  However, the spring breakers opt for an innocent game of "Truth or Dare" to celebrate their last night across the border.

FIRST LOOK: Demonic Influence takes over Truth or Dare

Dark haired , kind hearted Olivia (Lucy Hale) eventually regrets playing hooky from Habatat for Humanity for one last vacation with her best girl friend Markie (Violett Beane). After delusions or momentary brain flashes evoke her to cry out a cheating secret in the library, Olivia shudders to her other friends, "Something weird has been going on ever since Mexico."

Director Jeff ("Kick Ass 2") Wadlow doesn't have a horror flick under his directorial belt which could  explain the meandering focus swerving from a  strong hint of college kids on break debauchery (within PG-13 grounds) to a fork between slashing and paranormal.  The curse to perform a "truth," or "dare," or die has a period of not making sense until a few special effects distort faces impressively underscoring  a demon (not too much alcohol)  on the loose.

FIRST LOOK: Demonic Influence takes over Truth or Dare

The "game" wobbles a while structuring its foundation premise. Later, a "dare" has a Penelope (Sophia Ali)  walking on the edge of a second floor rooftop holding a bottle of booze in her hand struggles to keep her toes from slipping off a shingle.  It's a pivotal moment --- the group realizes they aren't playing with a bad weed, alcohol poisoning  or psychotic madness. 

Director Wadlow instinctively (along with the small town cops) ups the ante from a bizarre coincidence plague to something that followed those to campus. Energizing its conflict, the story sways from "hallucinations" to the work of a  hellish imp.  The students shake up solid relationships before the injection of the fearless "stop this game or we're going to die" sizzles. 

"Dare" could use a  solid inventive hook (think "It Follows," "Paranormal Activity") to compliment the bleak, foreboding sets rather than sprinkling spicy taco sauce here and there. (For a  a jalapeño pepper, try "A Quiet Place.") The cyber brilliant coeds (how much time does it really take to find the person on Google search?)  snatch more charismatic empathy  than their bumbling  "bf's" for whom one could care less. 

Simplistic supernatural manifestations bounded by road trips yield a few intense jump scares; most frights are marginal and moderate  increasing particularly as the demon stops teasing around and goes for troubling gutsy decisions.  It's scary (not freakin' out scary) enough to think twice about the implications of the drinking game. Convoluted cynical interruptions sink or swim. Fortunately, the faces, chalk, and modulation from the pits of hell aren't overridden. 

But, I can't help but ask, did you like the ending?


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