Before we start, I should specify that I’ve never watched any of the Saw movies, because torture porn really is not my thing and I tend to ignore more modern horror movies that just seem to be pointless sequel after pointless sequel. With older horror movies from the 50s all the way up to the 90s, there’s an odd charm to the aesthetic and the vast number of ridiculous sequels and exploitation films that I honestly just find really endearing and far more memorable. Maybe I’ll go more in depth about it sometime but what I’m trying to say is that today’s film is in a similar vein to those kinds of “sicko plays twisted game because social commentary on the casual brutality of society” movies that I just loathe as a concept because it’s so overdone and often says nothing informative or interesting because it lacks the intelligence to do so. But anyway, Would You Rather; is it any good? That really depends on whether or not you consider Sasha Grey a reputable acting talent; I don’t, moving on…
Granted, Sasha Grey is not our lead in this schlock fest, that role falls on resident “she wants to be Brittany Murphy and she’s almost there but not quite” type Brittany Snow, who I actually kind of like as an actress but like everyone here she’s fucking abysmal oh my god. Acting wise, the film is just really poor across the board with the exception being Re-Animator star Jeffrey Combs, who plays an underdeveloped crazy rich guy with no motivation quite successfully. Moving on from the fact that none of these actors are trying and I could easily replace them with Pygmy goats and have a much better movie, let’s talk plot.
Despite my distain for torture porn disguised as social commentary, I admittedly was intrigued by Would You Rather‘s premise. Snow’s character, who’s name is Iris, goes to a doctor to inquire about a bone marrow transplant for her dying brother, and the doctor introduces her to Combs’ Shepard Lambrick (Lambrick being the name of the production company oddly enough), who invite her to play a parlour game for cash and the transplant. Of course when she gets there, it’s revealed to be “would you rather” with a twist; the players are timed and they have to actually carry out the option they choose. Obviously, horrific hijinks ensue, and one by one players are eliminated, either killed by security or each other.
What I like about this premise is that it presents a really great moral dilemma for our characters, and in terms of it being a character study on the limits of human empathy and reason, it has a lot of potential. However, it all comes crashing down because of one tiny specific detail; WE LEARN NOTHING ABOUT THESE PEOPLE! AT ALL! It’s really frustrating because for this kind of premise to work you need to know at least something about your characters and their personalities, but all we get are small details and minuscule motivations. Keep in mind that there are 8 contestants and despite the fact that they interact with each other (they’re all stuck in the same room for practically the whole movie), nothing is revealed, it just leads to a total collapse of emotional investment. I was an hour into this 90 minute movie when I checked the time stamp and I was stunned because in all that time a few people had died but they were so underdeveloped I wrote them off as minor and assumed our remaining players would reveal something, but no. It never happens.
The most telling example of this would be the final round of the game, and only Iris and I don’t care what his name was I can’t remember are the last ones left. Iris is given two options; either both go home with nothing and live, or she shoots whats his name in the heart and wins. He leans forward to explain his reason for doing this, how him and Iris are one in the same, and just when I think I’m about to get something, anything from this last ditch attempt at investment, she shoots him and goes home with the cash only to find her brother dead from a prescription drug overdose. I’m not sure what the point of all this is, but thinking about it now I don’t think there even is one.
And that is the biggest failing of this film; it’s premise is a temple held up by toothpicks. It’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen, and there are elements that work, like the premise and Combs and the fact that, in this day and age, it’s refreshing to see a film like this feature a surprisingly minimal amount of gore. But everything else from the flatter than my chest performances to the dull aesthetic (there’s so many boring shades of brown I want to scream) to the often nonsensical dialogue (Iris yelling “she wasn’t ready!” at a guard when he shoves Sasha Grey’s head into water really cracks me up) to the empty vessels that are our victims just begs for a better overall production. In this state, the film only serves as a motiveless attack on the viewer’s attention span, and every single second of it just ends up being a pointless slog without any meaning. If Would You Rather is Saw, every other major horror movie in the past decade is a full hardware store.
Rating: 3 out of 10