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Truth or Dare
Games of spin the bottle and truth or dare have been a rite of passage for generations of hormone-addled teenagers, keen to explore their burgeoning sexuality. The good-looking protagonists of director Jeff Wadlow's horror thriller risk losing more than their dignity when they are drawn into a high-stakes game of honesty and forfeit in an abandoned Mexican monastery. Truth Or Dare deals from the same deck as the Final Destination films, conjuring a malevolent force that targets high school students in a predetermined order and punishes those who refuse to abide by the rules with a suitably grisly demise involving a seemingly benign inanimate object. The four scriptwriters dust off hoary cliches in their pursuit of scares and pepper dialogue with sassy one-liners that speak to a generation, which consumes media 24 hours a day on multiple devices. Thus, when one girl tries to rebuild bridges with her best friend, she casually throws a Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? reference into her conciliatory opening gambit: "I know things have been a little Bette and Joan between us..." Predictability haunts the musty frames of Wadlow's picture and white-knuckle scares are exorcised before composer Matthew Margeson's heavy-handed score cranks up the volume but, as a genre piece, this is slick, undemanding and doesn't outstay its welcome. Olivia (Lucy Hale) is poised to spend her final spring break before graduation working for a charity until fun-loving best friend Markie (Violett Beane) intervenes. "This is the last chance for us to have fun before life tears us apart!" pleads Markie. Olivia agrees to accompany Markie and her boyfriend Lucas (Tyler Posey), Penelope (Sophia Ali) and her boyfriend Tyson (Nolan Gerard Funk), and their gay pal Brad (Hayden Szeto) to Mexico for a week of partying to excess. At one of the beach bars, Olivia meets handsome stranger Carter (Landon Liboiron) and he invites the group to a late-night drinking session. Sleazy classmate Ronnie (Sam Lerner) crashes the party shortly before the students play a harmless game of truth or dare. When Carter agrees to answer a question truthfully and Penelope gently probes his feelings about Olivia, his answer shocks everyone. "I needed to find someone with friends that I could trick into coming here," he coldly declares. It transpires that Carter has lured them into a deadly real-life game of concealment and consequences. Truth Or Dare reserves one satisfying narrative bump for the final scene but otherwise, the two-dimensional characters are easy fodder for slaughter. Our lack of sympathy for the students extinguishes dramatic tension and the plot spins wildly out of control when the screenwriters reveal the origin of the evil. In truth, Wadlow's film is mildly diverting but instantly forgettable. I dare you to disagree.