It’s obvious that Would You Rather wants to be considered a somewhat more high class version of ‘Saw’, but it just doesn’t completely know how to go about doing that. Director David Guy Levy shows some interesting restraint in how he chooses to depict certain grisly events, but that almost seems at odds with what scribe Steffen Schlachtenhaufen has cooked up. There’s a cleverness inherent in repurposing the party game that gives the film its title and turning it into a horror movie device, but it takes more than cleverness to put out a successful and effective fright flick. This is by no means a bad film, but appears to be missing the final ingredient that would have made it recommendation worthy in my eyes. The lead performance of Brittany Snow (also a producer on the film) is pretty decent, and I’m always intrigued by seeing adult film performer Sasha Grey continue to try her hand at serious acting, but it never really adds up to enough. By no means is it torture porn, but I didn’t especially see the huge point that the movie is trying to get at. In the end, it’s a serviceable indie horror movie with unfulfilled aspirations of being something more.
Iris (Snow) is a hard working young lady who is solely concerned with providing for her sick younger brother. Their parents are gone, so they’re totally reliant on each other, which is to say that he’s completely reliant on her. Money is real tight, but an opportunity to help her brother (who needs a bone marrow transplant) comes in an offer from a doctor to introduce her to a philanthropist with a keen interest in this sort of situation. Iris meets with Sheppard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs), a wealthy man who proposes that she join a game that he’s organizing. His details are sketchy, but when she arrives Iris finds out that they’ll be trapped and forced to play a twisted version of “Would You Rather?” with a group of similarly needy folks. What starts out as just mean spirited soon turns murderous, and the group begins to whittle down. Essentially, the contestants are repeatedly forced to choose between torturing themselves or someone else in the group, until just one is left. Iris wants to help her brother, but on this night she’s just concerned with getting back to him alive. Certain ideas here are decently done, but the execution just leaves a bit too much to be desired.
No one in the cast is doing work of any high regard, but they manage not to overact or embarrass themselves either. Brittany Snow is kind of a standard issue heroine for a horror flick, and while she’s probably the most low key of the group, she does exactly what she needs to do. Snow has managed to do good work before (notably in The Vicious Kind ), and while this isn’t noteworthy, it’s not nearly the low point of her career. Jeffrey Combs is also very calm as someone not to dissimilar from the Jigsaw Killer, but he’s hardly as iconic. Combs is fine, but nothing more. The same goes for Sasha Grey, but this part actually fits her decently well. Also in the cast we have the likes of John Heard, Enver Gjokaj, and Jonny Coyne, but they’re just as average and easy to dismiss as anyone else in the cast. Acting is not the strong suit of the flick, but it doesn’t sink it either.
Director David Guy Levy is seeking to do something different here, but in his attempts to do that he ultimately keeps the movie from succeeding. Writer Steffen Schlachtenhaufen comes up with some gory tortures, but the most captivating one is kept from our view. Why set that one up and then abruptly cut away? You literally see just as much in the poster for the film. It just didn’t ring true for the material, at least in my head. Levy wants to be a little highfalutin with this take on gory horror, and while setting the film predominantly in one room gives it some intrigue, it just never feels completely original. Schlachtenhaufen probably thought he had a great surprise ending in store for audiences as well, but any observant viewer can see it coming a mile away. Essentially, Levy and Schlachtenhaufen manage to almost make this story boring, and I’m not sure how they did that.
Overall, Would You Rather has an intriguing hook (repurposing the harmless game as a method of execution), but not enough interesting things happen once it gets started. Genre fans will find enough to enjoy to warrant taking a gander at it, but expectations must be kept in check. This is a very mixed bag, but the bad winds up outweighing the good. I don’t think you should avoid the movie, but do understand that it probably won’t be a fun watch for anyone.
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