Ooh, this was a little surpriser. Stupidly named Truth or Die apparently everywhere else, this modest British horror film ended up being more than the crappy little low-budget throwaway movie I thought it was going to be. More thriller than horror, the plot revolves around a group of posh twat uni kids who look and sound like everything I’ve ever grown up with (except that mine were nice), and who are invited to a party at a massive country estate. The bash is intended as a birthday surprise for shy awkward geek Felix (Tom Kane), organised by his army man brother Justin (a suitably chilling performance by English Jensen Ackles David Oakes).
Things start to get a bit suspect when, after a couple of bottles of bubbly, Justin reveals that Felix had recently hanged himself. Because the group had humiliated Felix during a game of “Truth or Dare” right before his death, Justin takes it upon himself to use the same game to determine who sent Felix the mocking postcard that drove him to his suicide.
While we do see the interior and part exterior of an enormous mansion that would make Downton Abbey look like an outhouse, the majority of the film takes place in one tiny cabin (presumably to avoid blood and battery acid splatter all over several generations of oil painting portraits?), so the tension is quite easily kettled. Given that our heroes are a group of boozed-up sheltered brats and our killer is an thrice-Afghan-toured army hero who is quick on the draw, it’s not looking good for anybody. Especially when Justin mentions that his dad is so rich and powerful that anything that occurred there could easily be covered up. He’s also impossibly creative in his sadism – by arranging the “Dare” to be a scenario in which one member of the group has down their throat a feeding tube connected to a tank of water and a tank of battery acid, and the other member has to choose which is sent down. It’s gruesome stuff, and the uncertainty of many of the choices put to the group (at gunpoint, of course), heightens the tension.
And with a tightly-contained set such as this, the acting’s got to do all the talking/screaming. All the victims are capable and believable; on the surface, their characters all appear to be horror tropes, which is both a blessing and a curse as the film goes on. Casting relative unknowns helps distort any predictability you thought you might be getting on survival odds, and the movie’s overbearing mystery (who sent the postcard) and the precise, exacting actions of the antagonist help keep the story structured and the pace focused.
The only problem I had was a (slight spoiler?) post-game-changer scene in which a character gets the upper hand and delivers a smug (and slightly cornily-acted) speech, complete with audio-visual elements, to our killer. This would have been awfully satisfying had a different character not been pleading to go to the hospital (“I’m dying…There’s a hole in my leg and I’m losing blood”), just moments before. Maybe it would have been better to write a fucking postcard instead of leaving a fellow survivor to bleed to death.
At just over 90 minutes, it never feels overlong for an almost one-set film. I caught it on cable TV (thanks, VirginMedia, for the typical glitchy recording). Worth a watch.