By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru
Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Would You Rather (2012)
Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5)
We’ve all played the game, Would You Rather, where you are given two awful situations to pick from, usually saying that you can’t pass or say “neither.” For example, would you rather smash your thumb with a hammer at full strength or slice your peephole with a large papercut? (Well, the obvious answer is the hammer. I write about movies online. How much strength do I actually have?)
So naturally after books and a BBC game show hosted by Graham Norton someone finally truly understood this concept and made a horror movie about it. So, this week I take on the 2013 horror comedy Would You Rather? (It’s the one on Netflix with the picture of the razor blade and the eye. Thought I’d help you out there.)
The film follows Iris (Brittany Snow – Pitch Perfect), a young woman that had to drop out of college to move back home to care for her dying brother. Unfortunately she is broke and is unable to pay for her brother’s treatments. But, she is called to the clinic to meet with her brother’s doctor, Dr. Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Hr. – The Wire) where she is introduced to Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs).
Lambrick is a wealthy man who gives back by helping struggling people in bad situations. There is a catch, Iris would have to attend a party at his home, hosted by his foundation, where she will play a game and have a chance to win money to cover bills plus her brother would be removed from donor lists and found life saving bone marrow immediately.
At the party she meets several other contestants, including bitter recovering alcoholic Conway (John Heard – Home Alone), antisocial Amy (Sasha Grey – um…Entourage), elderly Linda (June Squib – Nebraska), kindhearted Lucas (Enver Gjokaj – Agent Carter), war veteran Travis (Charlie Hofheimer – The Village), gambling addict Peter (Robb Wells – Trailer Park Boys), and crabman Cal (Eddie Steeples – My Name is Earl). Sorry, couldn’t resist the joke. Also in attendance is Lambrock’s sadistic son Julian (Robin Lord Taylor – Gotham).
Dinner is served and Iris apologizes saying she can’t eat it because she forgot to say she was a vegetarian, in which Lambrick starts the games by offering her $10,000 to eat the meal. He continues by offering Conway either $10,000 to drink a glass of wine or $50,000 to down a bottle of scotch. After dinner, Lambrick offers them all the chance to leave, but they all decide to stay. Then the real games begin and the sinister nature of the evening is revealed.
Lambrick tells them they will go through rounds of games, eliminating players as they go along (meaning unable to participate any further, which also means dead). Conway says the game is bullshit and tries to leave but is shot and killed by Lambrick’s staff. The players now know they have to play and be the last person alive, even if it means doing horrible, horrible things.
Would You Rather? is an interesting film to say the least. And luckily it’s not a film just filled with unlikeable characters we patiently wait for to die. Not saying all the characters are likeable, but I think it’s pretty well matched. Even amongst the villains. Combs, while sadistic as fuck, at least is honest and gives people the chance to leave, and follows through on all of his promises.
Gray is the only one at the table who understands what is going on and plays to live, which makes her unlikable for most of the film until we actually learn more about her. Taylor’s performance as Julian, while good, never lets us care about his character and we only see him as pure evil from start to finish. Whiny, petulant evil, but evil nonetheless.
Unfortunately, most of our good characters are as exciting as a plank of wood. In fact, the majority of this cast is kind of dull. Snow is an actress I’ve liked in Pitch Perfect but here as our heroine I thought she was mediocre. Spoiler alert – as our main character I never felt she was in any real danger. In fact, most of the characters I could pretty much predict when they would meet their fates.
Still, if you’re going to going to watch this film you need to watch it for Combs. He’s having so much fun on screen that even as he is forcing people to do truly awful things he is a joy to watch. The film isn’t excessively gory, most of the gruesome stuff is implied and/or the camera cuts away. And I think this is a good film to watch with a group of friends and maybe play along and see what you all would do in the same situation.
Follow John on Twitter: @TrapperJohn1210