Thursday, October 3, 2013

Would You Rather

The torture porn sub-genre of horror movies are being phased out. I’m thankful for that because they wore out their welcome right after Saw III was released back in 2006 as far as I’m concerned. Sure there is still the occasional one that finds funding and is released upon unsuspecting genre fans looking for something fun that delivers on the gore while (hopefully) telling a decent story.

So how does Would You Rather hold up in the post-Saw world of sterile PG-13 found footage fright flicks?
Down on her luck Iris (Brittany Snow) needs money to pay for her brother’s Leukemia treatments, and when she is offered all the cash she would ever need in exchange for her presence at a dinner party hosted by the wealthy Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) she accepts. Unfortunately the guests are asked to play a deadly game of “Would You Rather” to earn the money promised to them.

I’ll get this out of the way first; the film is one of the few in this sub-genre that isn’t a gorefest. Instead it forces the audience to use their imagination and fill in the blanks when something overly violent occurs. We might get a flash of some blood, maybe a gun shot or a stabbing, but when it comes to the nastier bits we get nada, and I respect the filmmakers for going that route instead of for the grossout.
That being said, the film is for the most part quite boring and uneventful. I’d even say that for an R-rated horror/thriller this is somewhat tame in the suspense department despite attempts to build it constantly. It could be that the film is structured like a stage play, not unlike Clue or Death Trap. Unfortunately Would You Rather isn’t nearly as competently made as those movies.

I primarily blame the script by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen for not going far enough with the concept or the tasks asked of the partygoers. Sure offering a vegetarian money to eat some foie gras is interesting, but repeating it a minute later by offering a recovering alcoholic a stack of cash to drink a bottle of whiskey was unnecessary, especially with what comes a few minutes later for that character. Even the later events don’t really seem all that inventive, just cruel and at times pointlessly biased (you’ll get my reference when you see the film).
The characters aren’t written particularly well either. Obviously Iris is the most developed of the bunch, but Brittany Snow isn’t the greatest of actresses and doesn’t seem comfortable with the dark material regardless of the fact that she co-produced the film, thus negating my liking her character at all. She just comes off as whiny. None of the other characters are successful either even though a gaggle of talented actors are playing them. John Heard is wasted, ex-porn star Sasha Grey is just bitchy and the usually amusing Eddie Steeples (Crab Man from My Name is Earl) is just there to be the token black guy. Only genre icon Jeffrey Combs comes out unscathed as the smarmy and demented Lambrick. He quietly chews the scenery like no other can and his gleefully evil performance is the sole reason to watch this flick. Outside of him I didn’t like one single character in this mess.

Director David Guy Levy can’t seem to get his actors to come to life or build any sort of suspense or dread. The pace is lethargic and events unfold in a predictable way thanks to his inept supervision. In better hands this could’ve been a creepy potboiler of a flick, but as it is it’s not much better than one of the lesser Saw films (Saw: The Final Chapter). He knows how to keep the one setting the majority of the film takes place in look more interesting than any one person, so rack it up to lack of experience.
I had heard good things about Would You Rather not too long ago. I was excited when I finally tracked down a copy to watch, so it’s understandable that my expectations were probably a bit too high from the get go. Still, the fact remains that it’s just not very good. It’s slow, it pulls its punches a bit too often and to top it all off the ending is just a massive slap in the face that made me scream “fuck this movie” at the television. If the filmmakers’ intention was to bore me, then piss me off to no end they succeeded.

1.5 out of 5

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