Periscope Entertainment, Social Construct
October 14th, 2012
Release length: 1:33:00
Would You Rather starts up innocently enough, introducing our lead, Iris (Brittany Snow), who has just moved back home due to an accident involving her mother that is never explained, leaving her to take care of her dying brother. Upon seeing a local psychiatrist and being denied a job at a local dive, she is met by Shephard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) of the Lambrick Foundation, who offers to do for her what he did for the man she just saw, Dr. Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), and all it would take is her participating in a little game at a location of his choice. The winner will be set for life, and if its her, then her brother will also get the medical attention he needs.
Right away, little hints of Iris’s past play out in brief cut scenes and voice overs while heading to the mansion where the games will take place, and even before. Here, the rest of the cast is introduced, and give very brief back stories before dinner. Here, Shepard begins to break everyone down, showing each person has a price, including Iris who breaks her vegan ways for thousands of dollars by eating the steak in front of her. But, once the dinner is over, the games are under way with Julian (Robin Taylor), Shepard’s son, sitting in to watch and start up conversations. The games grow in intensity, starting from a headband that mildly shocks the person of choice, to stabbing a player next to them, or whipping the same one three times, all until one player is left and able to finish. While everything seems a random game of chance and luck, the final game does seem a bit stacked, and does take you out of the film a bit. That is, if you’re even that into it to begin with.
The biggest problem Would You Rather has is that you know immediately know who is going to win. There is no focus on any other story line but the one for Iris. Dr. Barden does show up again later on, feeling guilty for getting her into this and attempts to rescue her. Other than a brief two or three lines of dialogue from other people in the story to give some background to them, there’s no real history, and you’re left with more questions than answers since almost nothing is ever addressed in this film. Throughout the run time, you just find yourself not caring at all about a single one of them. The only other character that is even remotely interesting is Amy, and not because she’s played by porn actress Sasha Grey, but because of her attitude through the game, and how Shepard manipulates her in the final round, using a negative element in her life to bait the “random” card she is given. But, again, from the start, you already know who is going to win, so there’s no tension as to whether she will live or die at any time.
Other than that, the acting was fine all around, but, much like the lack of tension you have, most of the actors involved also didn’t seem to express much concern for their own fates other than a few people at the very start. Even when they try to escape, everyone shows just enough emotion to make it somewhat believable. Julian, however, does a good job when he traps Iris during the escape, and you do get the feeling through the film there’s something wrong with him, perhaps a little more than his father, and that his past will show up in this game as well. Some of the deat scenes, however, are simply comical and will have you laughin. This really seems the only point the people involved are enjoying themselves, such as the over-the-top reaction when one characters hand blows up.
However, while he does a fantastic job as Shepard, I couldn’t help but feel that Jeffrey Combs was a bit out of place for this role. Yes, he played the slightly off foundation owner well enough, but it’s hard to see that he didn’t quite give it all or make the character too believable as a man who sees nothing wrong with this sort of thing. Someone like Sid Haig would have made a better Shepard, as the character needed a little sedition to convey what fun and enjoyment he is experiencing during the game, something Jeffrey Combs fails to deliver with his raised voice and tone of righteous disbelief that screams more of an “I can’t believe I signed on to this project, but dear God, I needed the money.”
In the end, Would You Rather is incredibly telegraphed, right down to the twist ending you can see coming in the first few minutes. This film doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and the actors involved give mixed performances, though all are solid enough to keep your attention. This is a shame, really, as the premise, and some of the things that do go on during the game, would have made for a very engaging movie had it been handled differently. Even if an extra ten or twenty minutes were spent introducing the other characters involved prior to dinner. Even just two or three of them would have added a little more tension, leaving you to weigh which character should win, and if he or she deserves it. You won’t regret sitting through Would You Rather, but it definitely is something more along the lines of a one or two night rental from your local Redbox, or even through a video on demand service if the price is low enough since this is a movie you probably won’t come back to after that first viewing.
|Overall Score: 5.5/10