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story.lead_photo.caption Brad (Hayden Szeto), Lucas (Tyler Posey), Olivia (Lucy Hale) and Penelope (Sophia Taylor Ali) are menaced by an ancient demon who wants to play a game in Jeff Wardlow’s horror movie Truth or Dare.

Let's say you are an ageless demon from the pits of hell, summoned decades ago by a foolish young Mexican woman in a convent led by an evil priest. Once summoned, you have a bunch of time -- and young nuns -- to kill so you entertain yourself by playing a stupid kids' game with them that you make into something viciously sadistic. Let's say, they figure out finally how to contain you, but you are let free again in the modern day, and allowed to go back to your favorite pastime. Given all that, you could do much worse than taking out a group of wildly irritating squeaky Southern California college kids, in fact, you could be doing the rest of us a huge favor. With only a slightly different perspective, you could even be considered the hero of the thing -- at least to the audience.

A lame Final Destination rip-off -- a film series already so tepid, it's like taking a twice-used tea bag and trying to steep something out of it darker than the color of a sand dune -- the film lurches along with a horrific script, riddled with the worst sort of expositional dialogue ("Since my father took his life..." one character begins to tell her BFF who has known her since they were little kids), shoddy directing, weak acting, and an insultingly stultifying storyline. It's the kind of brainless "horror" vehicle that's designed to scoop as much money as it can from a minor budget, counting on the young actors, and the standard conventions of the form to carry itself to modest success. It's not swinging for the fences, in fact it isn't even holding a bat: It's counting on getting plunked in order to get on base.

Truth or Dare

73 Cast: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sophia Ali, Landon Liboiron, Nolan Gerard Funk, Sam Lerner, Brady Smith, Hayden Szeto, Morgan Lindholm, Aurora Perrineau, Tom Choi

Director: Jeff Wardlow

Rating: PG-13, for violence and disturbing content, alcohol abuse, some sexuality, language and thematic material

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Our heroine is Olivia (Lucy Hale), a painfully selfless do-gooder, who wants to eschew her last big spring break opportunity in order to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Unbeknownst to her, however, her BFF Markie (Violett Beane) has gone ahead and canceled Olivia's volunteering mission in order to drag her with the rest of their awful friends for a final Mexican adventure before heading out into the real world. Rather than be upset, Olivia quickly packs her stuff and jumps into the SUV with her buds in order to start crushing margaritas at first opportunity. So much for helping the poor.

On their last night there, she meets Carter (Landon Liboiron), a sweet-faced student with a good patter, who offers to take her whole crew to a special place, which turns out to be a creepy, deserted convent, replete with ancient candles, strangely modern looking photos, and lots of menacing shadows. Once there, Carter convinces them to do a round of truth or dare -- wherein the gang reveals among other things that Olivia has a crush on Markie's man, Lucas (Tyler Posey); Brad (Hayden Szeto), the gay Asian character -- knocking off two diversification elements at once! -- would make out with Carter, if given the chance; and Carter has tricked them into taking part in a deadly game with the aforementioned demon, which they will need to keep playing on their own when summoned, or die soon thereafter.

The gang, somewhat flummoxed, returns to the United States and promptly begins dying in mysterious and macabre ways, whenever they disobey the command to play another round. This demand can come in multiple ways, including via text -- apparently the demon has to stay up with current technologies in order to reach the millennials he so desires -- but most commonly by commandeering a nearby innocent body, and making them lower their chins and smiling bizarrely as if part of a Frito-Lay commercial. When, at last, it comes down to the final three (precisely whom you would suspect), they have deduced the way to stop and re-capture the demon, but it requires an enormous amount of stupidity and logic bumps to even attempt it.

There's not much more to be said, other than even the supposed novel ideas the demon conjures up to knock off the kids seem uninspired: One of the schemes, which involves making a female character walk around the perimeter of the sloped roof around their house while downing a bottle of cheap vodka, doesn't sound much worse than something she'd already had to do during pledge week. As a final insult, the film labors to lay out its various rules of interplay -- many of which are literally written out for the characters in complete sentences by a mute elderly woman -- only to disavow them whenever it's more convenient for the bevy of credited screenwriters in order to move on to the next scene.

If it can be said the film reaches to have thematic thread of any kind, it ham-handedly posits a question of altruism, with the benign Olivia, its test subject. I guess you could see it as a kind of facile philosophical debate, only it becomes clear about halfway through the film that Olivia's supposed selflessness is mainly rooted in her guilt for doing some pretty lousy things to her best friend, which makes her a particularly shabby exemplar of selflessness. The startling plot twist at the end, which makes absolutely no sense, wants to further hammer home its point about the fallacy of empathy, but I can't say as it comes as no surprise, given the filmmakers' callous disregard for making us suffer through this idiotic movie in the first place. Further raising the irony quotient, about the only remotely useful thing our demon friend does provide is a series of dares and challenges I would seriously consider doing myself rather than have to sit through a sequel.

In the supernatural thriller Truth or Dare, Lucas (Tyler Posey) and Markie (Violett Beane) fi nd themselves caught up in a deadly parlor game.

MovieStyle on 04/13/2018

Print Headline: Truth or Dare

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