Would You Rather is a psychological Horror film that most would relegate to the dubious subgenre “Torture Porn”. While I never much liked the term “Torture Porn” as it seems to incorrectly link violence to sexual arousal, it’s probably an accurate description of this particular offering.
Would You Rather got some good press and even made it onto several prominent Best Horror of 2013 lists. But the truth is, I’d rather find and review a more satisfying Horror movie than write about Would You Rather. But I do what I gotta do.
Read my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: In the wake of her parent’s death, Iris struggles to make ends meet while caring for her terminally ill younger brother. Shepard Lambrick, a seemingly philanthropic aristocrat, expresses an interest in helping them. When he invites her to an exclusive dinner party, she accepts. Also attending the dinner party are seven more desperate individuals. They soon find themselves trapped in Lambrick’s mansion and forced to play a sadistic game of Would You Rather, where the winner will be awarded untold amounts of money. As the game progresses, the dilemmas Iris and the other players face grow increasingly deadly.
Would You Rather is a Saw rip-off with no soul. Villain Shepard Lambrik (played by Jeffrey Combs and looking like Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights) claims some sort of ethical code governs his “game”, even telling his son that the rules require him to participate sparingly. But I see no proof that there is any guiding principle at work (noble or otherwise) as the rules vacillate wildly throughout the evening and nothing feels “fair”.
Also, there is no rhyme or reason to the group of contestants presented in Would You Rather. We know that Iris (Brittany Snow) has a sick brother, one guy is a war vet, and the hot chick lost a child, but the others are completely opaque. We might assume that all of the contestants are “needy” but that hardly makes them worthy of philanthropy. Hundreds of thousands of people deal with tragedy, so why is a cold bitch included over a struggling single parent, or an unemployed husband? Do the nebulous rules require a mix of nice people and assholes?
Shepard Lambrik, despite his claims, is no philanthropist. He says that the game is meant to challenge and motivate the individuals, but I detected nothing beyond the pleasure he receives when pain is inflicted on others. He laughs, gawks, and gushes like a sports fan at a title match. He’s also dishonest. True, he does offer the participants a chance to leave, but they don’t know enough to make an informed decision. They expect to be made uncomfortable (a vegetarian being forced to eat meat and a recovered alcoholic being tempted with a decanter of scotch, for example) but when they agree to play, they don’t know that the challenges are deadly and that the winner will be the event’s sole survivor.
When John Kramer (aka The Jigsaw Killer) gives someone a painful choice to make, there is definitely a code at work. The “victims” are chosen because of specific crimes they have committed. The “game” addresses a specific indiscretion or sin. The pain has a purpose beyond punishment, usually serving as a wake-up call. Jigsaw never taunts his subjects or revels in their suffering. And most important, Jigsaw plays by rules. If Shepard Lambrik and his games share none of these qualities, then he is simply a sadist and a douche-bag. Without a governing morality (mainstream or twisted) Would You Rather is just an exhibition of meaningless violence. Torture Porn.
Would You Rather is about rich jaded 1-percenters who get off on torturing the lower classes (like Hostel, but without the awesome writing, cinematography, originality, and complicated themes). The conclusion leaves us without a winner, without any kind of sympathy or empathy for anyone, making it easy to dismiss the entire viewing experience.
Fans of Torture Porn will want to give this film a spin, but I wouldn’t recommend it for any serious aficionado.
2 out of 5 Skull Heads
|Release Date (DVD/VOD)||July 9 2013|
|Director||David Guy Levy|
|Writer||Steffen Schlachtenhaufen, David Guy Levy|
|Starring||Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs, Sasha Grey, John Heard, Robin Lord Taylor, Lawrence Gilliard|