Saturday, May 31, 2014

Truth Or Dare: Let's Play a Game...

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I want to play a game. No awkward tape recordings, no ever-growing budget. Just a simple game of truth or dare.

The best part of this game is that no matter what option you choose, the question is the same. So you pick truth: What is the most messed up thing you can think of? The gamut of taboos should run through your mind. I don't need to spell them out for you, but you should start to feel uncomfortable. And so you change your mind and choose dare: I dare you to justify all those messed up things you just thought of. Can you do it? Can you say to yourself, "That's awful, but if I was in the same situation, maybe I'd think again."

The good news is that Jessica Cameron's film Truth or Dare only presents the information about certain acts we as a society consider taboo. She doesn't show us the unhealthy sexual desires of some people, but she does punish us (the audience) and her cast for them.

Truth or Dare is exactly that. A version of the teen sleepover game but with knives, guns, a camcorder, and a group of friends with secrets. The friends have been making YouTube videos popular for the gore effects and feeling of reality produced. Obsessed fan Derik (Ryan Kiser) is upset when he learns the videos aren't real and wants to bring that reality to the group. He manages to get into the house where the group is about to shoot their next video and exert his version of control over them. Then the secrets come out (all those taboos, some by choice and others by force) and the blood--oh so much blood--begins to flow.

The way Cameron has constructed this film -- and by the way, she also co-wrote, co-produced, and stars as Jennifer -- makes it prone to spoilers. I can attest that the crowd at Crypticon Seattle, including myself, were appropriately shocked at each secret and how those secrets caused the team members' demise. Here everyone is a victim, and that shouldn't surprise you. How and when each member meets his or her end is best left to experience on your own.

Without getting into how each tool is used, I can tell you the various implements of destruction. I already know you have a twisted imagination, so perhaps you'll think of ways these can be used, too. Knives and guns (including a close-quarters shotgun) are around, but so is a wine bottle and a corkscrew, Hey, it's party, so those things aren't out of place. The use of these things lent themselves to very believable and graphic effects. Each spurt of blood is a reminder of how tame CGI is compared to practical effects. If you work on one of these films, you're going to make gallons of fake blood and, by God, you'd better use it all. Cameron gets her meager money's worth from the effects and the actors being doused in gore, including herself.

Therein lies the true brutal genius of Truth or Dare. Cameron, in all her various roles in front of and behind the camera, isn't afraid to get dirty. She doesn't get the dirtiest, but there is good reason within the film for that. She does get her share, especially toward the end. Her character, Jennifer, has secrets of her own that work for and against her and her friends. Yet Jennifer is the one character you actually hope survives. Despite their egregious flaws, you don't necessarily cheer for the deaths of any characters, but Jennifer is at a different level. Cameron pulls of the role with depth rarely seen in films of this sort. If anyone is going to win this life or death game of truth or dare, we hope it is her.

As the nutjob Derik, Kiser is manic and sometimes appears like he isn't in the same world as the other characters. And that's just how it should be. He wants to be accepted but ultimately knows he never will be. He lives in a fantasy world that blurs the lines between fiction and reality. He doesn't know what is real, despite his admonition to make the videos more real. He hates that viewers can't accept the reality he is showing them and it pushes him over the edge. Kiser, scraggly beard and bad haircut included, has been cast as Charles Manson in the upcoming film House of Manson and I have a feeling he will be the best Charlie ever put to film.

If you were lucky enough to meet Cameron at Crypticon Seattle, as i was, or at any other convention, it might be difficult to match up the approachable (and, honestly, gorgeous), vivacious blonde with the person you imagine would make a film like Truth or Dare. That, I believe, is part of the point. The most off-balance people aren't always as obvious as the character Derik in the film. They could be your friends. And the most balanced people are often the ones able to capture the frenetic spirit of fucked-up-ness needed to successfully make a film such as Truth or Dare. The real crazies, like Derik, might get a few thousand hits on YouTube, but they'll never reach the point of brilliance required to make their own Truth or Dare.

Check out more on Truth or Dare at They even have opportunities to pitch in some cash and get this movie out to the wider world. (And they have a great background on their site. Great minds and all that jazz.)

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