As a genre, horror is supposed to evoke a physical reaction — a gasp, an elevated heart rate, a roiling stomach — but my biggest bodily response to "Truth or Dare" was an eye roll at its conclusion. My FitBit actually logged the experience as a 100-minute nap. Other than a single, solid jump scare, this supernatural snooze barely qualifies to bear the genre's name.
Olivia (Lucy Hale) is a good person. "Truth or Dare" never stops reminding us of this, from her spring-break plans to build a house with Habitat for Humanity to her unnecessary niceness when overeager Ronnie (Sam Lerner) won't leave her alone. Her best friend Markie (Violett Beane) isn't so perfect, cheating on her boyfriend Lucas (Tyler Posey) and canceling her BFF's charity trip so they can travel together.
While on spring break with Markie and their friends in Mexico, Olivia meets a stranger (Landon Liboiron), who reveals during a game of truth or dare at an abandoned mission that the game is real. The friends must play, with untold truths and incomplete dares resulting in death, and the secrets shared causing rifts among the formerly close group.
"Truth or Dare" refuses to follow the rules of its own game. It sets up an interesting internal logic — each of the dares are initially related to something someone has said — but has forgotten it by the film's final act, when the truths and dares are just simply cruel and not particularly inventive. "The game is smart," Olivia warns, but this movie is so, so dumb.
Intentionally silly horror movies, including last year's "Happy Death Day," are a delight for genre fans, but this one has no sense of fun, other than an occasional humorous line from the script written by four people: Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, Christopher Roach and director Jeff Wadlow.
Wadlow never establishes a tone that works. There are a few gotcha moments, but the film lacks the sense of dread that you'd feel if you were waiting for the terror of your turn in the game. Most of the movie's minor successes are due to its appealing cast, who've been imported from beloved teen TV shows including "Pretty Little Liars" (Hale) and "Teen Wolf" (Posey).
For the average moviegoer, producers and studio names often mean little, but this film is technically billed as "Blumhouse's Truth or Dare," giving credit to the monster production company beyond a number of horror hits. Producer Jason Blum is the biggest name in the genre since Wes Craven, with his Blumhouse Productions serving up movies that have ranged from the fantastic ("Get Out") to the thankfully forgettable ("The Darkness"). Horror fans may line up in anticipation, but "Truth or Dare" falls toward the lesser end of the company's output.
‘Truth or Dare’
Rating: PG-13, for violence and disturbing content, alcohol abuse, some sexuality, language and thematic material.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: In general release