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April 27, 2014

Would You Rather

by Franz Patrick


Would You Rather (2012)
★ / ★★★★

Buried in debt and unable to land a job, Iris (Brittany Snow) is desperate to provide a better life for her brother, Raleigh (Logan Miller), who happens to have leukemia. Aware of her financial difficulties, Dr. Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), Raleigh’s doctor, invites Iris to meet with a man named Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs). It turns out he wishes to invite Iris over dinner and a game will be played. It is promised that the winner will be paid handsomely. In addition, if Iris were to win, her brother would bypass all waiting lists and be provided the necessary bone marrow transplant. Though suspicious, Iris feels it is her duty to do whatever it takes to take care of her brother.

One might assume that with a title like “Would You Rather,” written by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen and directed by David Guy Levy, the movie will at least be as fun as the actual game. Instead of taking an imaginative avenue, it relies on the threat of violence to generate so-called horror. As a result, it demands to be categorized with pictures like James Wan’s “Saw” and Eli Roth’s “Hostel” when, in actuality, it has more in common with their weakest sequels: it holds no surprises and we just wait for the final girl to barely make it through the exhausted final scenes.

It is boring because the good guys consistently choose the “kind-hearted” decisions. For example, given the choice of electrocuting oneself or a complete stranger, the nice characters—the ones we are obviously supposed to root for—select to experience the shock just so their consciences remain clean.

Conversely, the bad guys—in this case a woman—are ones who are out for themselves. I found Amy (Sasha Grey) to be the most interesting character because she does not think twice about putting her life ahead of the others. Wouldn’t it have been a fresh move if somewhere in the middle she was revealed to be the actual main character? If this exact game occurred outside of the film (I hope not), I would be willing to put money that she would win. She is willing to go all the way.

Choice A or Choice B are limited. First, the same choice is offered to the eight participants. Each of them is given a superficial personality, leaving not much room for change. As a result, once we figure out how a character thinks, it is easy to guess which course of action he or she will choose. Eventually, it becomes predictable and slow.

Second, the choices are not fun. Sure, they are violent and I wanted to look away at times, but I found no joy in watching someone get hurt over and over again using the same weapon. What the choices need in order to be interesting is variety. For instance, instead of a constant threat of pain, make Choice A gross and Choice B dangerous. Would you rather eat a slice of banana cake covered in fruit fly eggs (you should see them under a microscope!) or put your hand, without protection, in a box of tarantulas for five minutes?

“Would You Rather” should have been a piece of cake—cake covered in fruit fly maggots!—to be genuinely entertaining without always having to be straight-faced and mean-spirited. To me, horror movies should be fun. They can be disgusting, violent, shocking, heart-pounding, even moving—but never boring or suffocatingly one-note. Would you rather sit through a movie that makes an active effort to surprise you or one that will encourage you to make a shopping list in the dark?

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