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'Would You Rather' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

Would You Rather poster
© Periscope Entertainment
Chances are you've played a version of the party game Would You Rather -- basically giving someone the choice between two hypothetical (and often repulsive) actions -- but chances are your version never involved stabbings, explosions, gunplay, whips, electrocutions and other unpleasantries I dare not mention. If it did, then Would You Rather should look awfully familiar.

The Plot

After her parents die, 20-something Iris (Brittany Snow, Prom Night) returns to her hometown to take care of her sickly younger brother Raleigh (Logan Miller), who's in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. With few monetary options and the bills piling up, she's intrigued when Raleigh's doctor introduces her to Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator), a wealthy philanthropist who says he might be able to help her brother if Iris attends a dinner at his home for people in similar need of aid.

She arrives to find she's one of eight guests gathered around a large dinner table. The cordial dinner takes a dark turn, however, when the nature of the competition for Lambrick's charity is revealed to be a sadistic game of Would You Rather -- which, according to their host, provides the duress that reveals people's true character. The stakes, it turns out, aren't just his money, but the very lives of his guests.

The End Result

Brittany Snow in 'What Would You Do'.

Brittany Snow in 'What Would You Do'.

© IFC Midnight
Would You Rather has a straightforward, admirably simple story that plays like a feature-length entry in a horror anthology (morality code and all) like Tales from the Crypt. Set largely in a single room, it has an intimate, play-like feel -- with its cast of archetypal characters, sort of like murder mystery dinner theater -- aided by dialogue with above-average intelligence for a fright flick. The pace is fast and the plot unencumbered by extraneous details, so it's immediately engaging, although it's also lacking in the sort of twists (apart from the very end) you'd hope for in a cat-and-mouse game.

Apart from the dinner game format, the individual moments (i.e., the "would you rathers") aren't terribly memorable, in part because the grisliest moments are off screen -- for better or worse. While it purports to give some insight into human nature, the movie's "survival of the fittest" mantra is nothing we haven't seen before, but it does have enough of a dark edge to satisfy horror fans. More refreshing, frankly, is the realism of the characters' actions; in a genre notorious for inspiring viewers to yell at the screen, the protagonists (and even the bad guys) generally act in a reasonable fashion, and the outcome feels realistic -- perhaps too much so for some tastes.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B- (Combs leads a strong cast of familiar faces.)
  • Direction: C+ (Competent and nondescript, though the content doesn't call for much flourish; ending lacks the requisite punch.)
  • Script: C+ (An intriguing setup, but lacks the twists and the though-provoking nature you'd hope for.)
  • Gore/Effects: C+ (Moderate gore, but cuts away from the most memorable moments.)
  • Overall: C+ (A tense and entertaining game of survival.)

Would You Rather is directed by David Guy Levy and is not rated by the MPAA. Release date: February 8, 2013 (limited).

Disclosure: The distributor provided free access to this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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