“Would you rather...?”
I’ve never considered movies like this to be horror films because for me there has to be actual scares involved and not just gory scenes. I know that they still succeed at shocking and grossing out the audiences, but there is really no actual fear involved. Perhaps my definition of horror isn’t actually accurate, but I’m not a huge fan of these torture porn movies. David Guy Levy borrows several familiar elements here from the Saw franchise and Eli Roth’s Hostel, although with a much lighter approach. The torture scenes aren’t in your face, in other words more is implied than actually shown. I’m grateful that Levy took that approach, but I still had a hard time finding anything entertaining about this movie. The characters are all one dimensional and the plot is very predictable. From the moment Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) appears on screen you know his character is up to no good and it’s not hard to figure out where the plot is heading. Steffen Schlachtenhaufen’s script is weak and his characters are all one dimensional. He couldn’t have given Sasha Grey’s character a more stereotypical role than he did with her character here. And the same could be said for Combs and Robin Lord Taylor’s characters. Perhaps I’m being a bit too critical of this film because I saw this after having seen Cheap Thrills, which I thought this film was ripping off (but apparently this was made before it). I wasn’t a huge fan of Cheap Thrills either, but it is a much better film than this and at least it offered plenty of surprises and twists along the way.
The film introduces us to Iris (Brittany Snow) a young woman who is trying to take care of her ill younger brother, Raleigh (Logan Miller), who requires expensive treatment for his leukemia. In the next scene Raleigh’s doctor, Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr), calls her to his office and introduces her to a wealthy man named Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) who has an interesting proposition for her. He invites her to his home for a game in which she will be competing against other guests and the winner will receive full payment for their treatment from his foundation. She’s not convinced about accepting the invitation, but she feels impelled to go for her brother’s sake. Once she arrives at Shepard’s home she is introduced to the other guests: Lucas (Enver Gjokaj), Travis (Charlie Hofheimer), Linda (June Squibb), Peter (Robb Wells), Cal (Eddie Steeples), Amy (Sasha Grey), and Conway (John Heard) who have all been invited for similar reasons. Shepard then invites them to the table and along with his son, Julian (Robin Lord Taylor) and several body guards he tells them the rules of the game. The premise is simple, it is the familiar game of “would you rather” where the participants are given two options and they choose which one they’d prefer, with the exception that in this game they have to act upon the action they choose, and neither of them are very promising. It doesn’t take too long until the guests realize they’ve been invited to be a part of a very sadistic game.
There isn’t really too much I can say about this movie, other than the fact that I found it rather tasteless and predictable. The performances were all weak, but the main problem relies on the weak script they were given. I mean just look at June Squibb and what she did in Nebraska and compare it to the material she is given here where she isn’t allowed to shine at all. Brittany Snow and Enver Gjokaj are the two how come out best in this film but neither of them did anything special or groundbreaking here. After seeing this I felt like Cheap Thrills was a masterpiece next to it. I’m probably not the right target audience for this film, but I couldn’t find any of it worth recommending.