TRUTH OR DARE (USA 2013)
Dir – Jessica Cameron
Starring- Jessica Cameron, Ryan Kiser, Heather Dorff, Shelby Stehlin, Devanny Pinn
The internet has led a revolution in bringing the unseen, graphic and disturbing to our screens, whether it be through the grim Two Girls One Cup video, or the most recent and graphic video for the band Cattle Decapitations’ song Forced Gender Reassignment (note- If you Google any of these then I am not responsible for what you may see), it’s a form of technology that allows us to access material that would never see the light of day on DVD. It’s ironic that in the 30th anniversary of the video recording acts that full uncut versions of films that spawned that act, the so called video nasties, are up on YouTube. It’s relevant then that TRUTH OR DARE looks at excess, shock and the difference between what is real and unreal in the internet world, along with a slight swipe at those seeking internet fame, though admittedly it brings this about in a less than subtle fashion.
A group of friends, who are running an online video group called the ‘Truth or Daredevils’, publish their video which purports to show a real shooting. Once the video has gone viral and scored many hits, they become famous, and whilst milking this fame on a talk show they reveal that the person who was shot, wasn’t actually killed at all and he makes an appearance as well, to reveal he was in on it. They are confronted on the same talk show, by their biggest fan who isn’t happy that the film was faked, but his rant is cut short when he is chucked out by security. The group decide to head to an out of bounds location to shoot there next stunt, but before they can go ahead with it, the same crazed fan from before turns up at the house, armed and wanting to make his own truth or dare video, proudly announcing that he is the new member of the group, but taking charge and forcing the group, at gunpoint to carry out a new game. Once it starts, with a few truths that reveal uncomfortable facts about certain members of the group, to then going into dares which become increasingly sadistic, leading the group to try and figure out a way around there un-welcome new member who is running the show to a more disturbing level.
First of all TRUTH OR DARE is certainly extreme, it doesn’t relent the graphic acts it depicts and it does become a slight ordeal to watch, especially in the final part of the film, where the dares become more aggressive and painful to view. Even I, found one scene involving a bottle, quite hard to stomach and felt very queasy during it, and in the Grimm screening there were a few walkouts. Though I can respect Cameron for doing this as the violent dares which are carried out play into the madman’s ideology of creating something real. The character of the crazed fan (brilliantly played by Ryan Kiser) is a product of twisted ideology, and the need to see something online that isn’t a fake. There’s a great scene where Kiser’s character starts to get very angry at the YouTube user comments, saying that what they’re seeing is a fake, as they are shattering his psychotic need for realism, and even in this scene there’s a sly dig at people on the internet looking for something graphic to be real, and not differentiating between reality and fiction, even though the truth or daredevil group are being tortured online, and the YouTube hits are increasing, the internet users are still none the wiser.
At the heart of the film though is a nice commentary on the pointlessness and selfish rise of internet fame for doing nothing of merit, where the truth or daredevils become famous for faking a shooting, or doing something stupid, they bask in the brief rise of fame which they receive. You can go on YouTube and see any short daredevil clip where people are doing something daring to eventually achieve a mass rise in hits to their video. Even on the E4 channel there is a compilation programme called RUDETUBE, which lists these pranks or stunts in popularity. Admittedly the acting at first is a bit ropey and some of the characters in the daredevils group come off as slightly annoying, and during some of the ‘truths’ certain confessions come out that make you wonder whether it’s worth rooting for them or wait to see what happens to them. Yet by the end you end up rooting for some of them, as they are slowly torn apart by their online show and there psychotic new member.
Admittedly I went into TRUTH OR DARE knowing it was going to be gruesome, but left not expecting it to be as graphic as it turned out to be. Speaking to other people about the film, some liked it, some didn’t, it was a divisive film in the long run, and that can be a good thing, it at least gets people talking. I know some would have found the upfront brutality and dodgy acting too much to take. I feel that, yes it is excessive, but there are reasons behind the bloodshed, and in the end the film comes off as an extreme balls out commentary on fame, online obsession and online real life violence versus fictional violence. Cameron, along with the Soska twins again are showing the horror genre that female directors are certainly just as equal as there male counterparts, and it’s to her credit that she has managed to make a film, that I found graphic and unsettling, yet also intelligent and smart.