I did not dismiss Would You Rather? out of hand based on its admittedly ridiculous premise. I’ve seen at least most of the Saw movies, which are based entirely on playing killer games with people, and I even watched a ghost story that featured a deadly round of “never have I ever”. At this point, a horror film that takes a benign game played for shits and giggles and turns it into a scenario for torture porn is hardly the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. So just know that when I say this movie is really goddamn stupid, it is not the premise that I am talking about.
The main story follows our protagonist Iris (Brittany Snow), a young woman that is struggling to take care of her brother after he is diagnosed with leukemia. Their doctor sets up a meeting with weird rich guy Shepard Lambrick, played by Jeffrey Coombs, who says that he has a foundation that can take care of all their medical needs including finding a bone marrow donor. All she has to do is come to his house and compete in a game where the winner will get everything they want. Not a reality TV or game show but just a competition that this foundation that you’ve never heard of puts on in order to help people with nothing left to lose. Because Iris lives in a world where there are no horror movies and/or she is a raging idiot, she decides that this offer sounds totally legit. Honestly, if this were happening to me then best case scenario I would assume this was going to be a weird sex thing a la Eyes Wide Shut but my first thought would be “Oh, yeah, this is definitely a scenario where you are going to murder me. No question.”
When she gets to the obvious murder mansion, we find the rest of the guests already there including Robb Wells, Eddie Steeples, Sasha Grey, John Heard, and Enver Gjokaj (who I have been wanting to see in more things ever since Dollhouse). We get a scene where Lambrick tells his son Julian (Robin Lord Taylor) to keep his shit together which makes it appear he will be important somehow but don’t worry, they will forget all about him by Act 3. During dinner Iris says she is a vegetarian and Lambrick tell her he’ll give her $10k to eat the steak. Which she does because, yeah, fucking obviously. Then John Heard isn’t drinking the wine because he is a recovering alcoholic so our host says he’ll give him $10k to drink the wine or $50k if he drinks a decanter of scotch (which should be enough to at least make him pass out). He goes for the $50k and drinks down the scotch. It is at this point that I start to question why nobody else at the table started making shit up that they didn’t want to do just to get in on that. Like, why is nobody going “Oh, can’t eat these mashed potatoes. Atkins diet and all that. Golly gee, it sure would be terrible if someone made me eat these mashed potatoes. 20 thousand dollars to eat them? Oh no, my principles! Shucks and darnit, guess I better do it.”
I bring up this scene in particular because it is going to be emblematic of how goddamn stupid this own movie is with its already weak premise. It is supposed to be about “making tough choices” and “seeing how far you’ll go” but it ends up being bullshit. He gives these people a bunch of money and then immediately starts the torture games up and the money doesn’t mean shit anymore. He says right at the start people are free to leave and then right after that, before anything has happened, one guy is like “Actually, I do want out” and he gets shot. The son berates the guests at one point calling them pigs and beggars that are just trying to take his family’s money. Which is fucking stupid as it was Shepard that invited them under the guise of charity. The parameters of the decisions get randomly changed. It’s intellectually dishonest in its premise as instead of being like “You have to pick between two bad choices” it’s always “You have to pick between a choice that is bad and one that is potentially less bad but if you try to make it less bad I’ll just go ahead and either make it worse or kill you.”
The reason things like Saw were compelling is because the madman had a distinct idea. He sets up a horrible thing for you to accomplish and you either accomplish it or die. He doesn’t wait until you have almost succeeded and then fuck you up or change what you have to do because you figured out a way around it. When that’s the scenario there is no longer any incentive for your characters to even play. They might as well attack you or try to escape instead because they are going to be killed anyway. Nobody even calls him on his shit. The idea that there would be a “winner” means nothing because all you’ve seen up to this point is that Lambrick is entirely willing to change the rules just so someone dies. And since there is nothing to stop the winner from just going to the authorities or news outlets and being like “This rich guy has murder parties”, you have to imagine that he is going to kill everyone. Except no, at the very end he is true to his word for no good god damn reason.
This has gone on fairly long but oh my god I am so angry at horror movies that squander their ideas. Also, for a torture porn type film, the movie doesn’t actually show anything. There is an eye cutting scene and instead of some Un Chien Andolou type shit, it just cuts away at the last second. Anyway, I give Would You Rather? a 1.5 out of 5. It wasn’t poorly made and was relatively engaging but it just made me so goddamn angry.
Favorite thing in the movie: Jeffrey Coombs gets to eat a whole bunch of scenery.
Least favorite thing: The black doctor that originally sets up the meet for Iris has a change of heart, goes to try to save her, and gets immediately killed when he shows up. Good job on copying the worst thing from The Shining.