Monday, October 26, 2015

Film Review: Would You Rather (2012)

Would You Rather (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"...makes up for most of its shortcomings though some compelling themes, effective direction, great acting, and a strong ending."

A group of people in need of money are invited to play a dastardly game by Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs), a man with a charitable foundation and sinister intentions...

Would You Rather focuses on Iris (Brittany Snow), who is struggling to care for her ailing brother. Through her brother's doctor, Iris meets Lambrick and is invited to a dinner party game that may whisk away all of her financial problems and her brother's medical issues. Upon arriving at the dinner party, Iris meets the other contestants; unfortunately, we barely get a glimpse at their characters. Anyway, after dinner, Lambrick reveals the rules of the game. Pick one of two fiendish options, like whipping or stabbing someone, or be eliminated. The game becomes more disturbing as it progresses. You'll probably guess who will be the remaining contestants before the last game, but the ending is quite the doozy.

Would You Rather is a great film. Its setup is a little weak — an evil organization with riches and power, it's not a stretch of the imagination — but it works. Lambrick is splendid as the villain, really digging into you with is conniving and facetious ways. The game plays out very well, each challenge is more disturbing than the last. Some would consider it torture porn, but it's not too graphic — aside from a scene or two. I felt this made the film more effective. It's not reliant on gore as it opts for more realistic challenges — for lack of a better term. The use of "would you rather" as the central device worked well, too. These pieces come together to create something intense, suspenseful, and engaging.

Would You Rather is not perfect, though. It's certainly entertaining and effective, but the impression dwindles upon further thought. This is due to the lack of character for everyone but Iris. Aside from little tidbits nonchalantly spread throughout, we hardly get to know the other participants — they're really just cardboard cutouts with a single trait. In fact, even Iris felt like she was lacking, especially in regards to her relationship with her brother. These holes in the characters also leave some unanswered questions. Like Lambrick's son, for example, he's present and we know he's fiendish, but there are parts of him that aren't explained. It may seem like I'm being harsh, but these issues really make the film's initial impact dwindle a bit. There's also a subplot following a guilt-ridden character which feels like a waste of time by the time it ends.

The acting was great, though. Jeffrey Combs is wonderful as the dastardly host. Brittany Snow was also great. The supporting cast do not falter, offering great performances. The film is shot well. It's mostly restrained to a single room, but I thought it looked great. The music matched the cinematography to create an unnerving ambiance. Director David Guy Levy crafts plenty of suspense without being gratuitous and while minimizing filler — I would like to see more from him. Writer Steffen Schlachtenhaufen has an excellent concept and some dastardly tricks up his sleeves, but the characters are certainly lacking.

Overall, Would You Rather is a very good film. It's genuinely intense and suspenseful. Although the plot's setup is weak and most of the characters are hollow, the film makes up for most of its shortcomings though some compelling themes, effective direction, great acting, and a strong ending. I should note, it's not a torture film like Vile or Hostel. Although it's not the deepest film, it offers a bit more than its peers. I recommend it.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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