Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: David Guy Levy
Written by: Steffen Schlachtenhaufen
Starring: Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs, Jonny Coyne, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Logan Miller, Sasha Grey, June Squibb & Robin Lord Taylor
SAW and HOSTEL gave birth to a fad in mid-2000’s horror: Torture Porn! That name pretty much encompasses everything you’d expect within that subgenre. It’s as descriptive and self-explanatory as it can possibly be. Words can’t describe the amount of hatred that many horror fans began to feel towards the massive influx of cheap torture-porn flicks. While certain movies in this subgenre were executed in ways that felt fresh and original (the first three SAW films, HOSTEL 1 & 2, and a variety of extreme French flicks), there were far more poor excuses for horror films that were shamelessly pumped out to make a quick buck. The premise of WOULD YOU RATHER sounds like it’s yet another one of these cheap torture-porn movies, but that’s surprisingly not the case. Instead of being all about blood and guts, WOULD YOU RATHER is a devilishly clever little film that relies more on constant suspense of what’s going to happen next as opposed to shocking gore gags.
Iris is a young woman stuck in a rut. She can’t seem to maintain a steady job, her parents are dead, and she’s been saddled with taking care of her sick brother. Iris’s situation is looking even more dire as she simply can’t afford her younger brother’s upcoming medical treatments. Like a miracle, the wealthy Shepard Lambrick walks into her doctor’s office and has a proposal for Iris. Every year, Lambrick hosts an elegant dinner party, after which, a game is played. The winner of this game walks out rich and all of their problems are solved. Taking what seems to be the only possible option available, Iris goes to Lambrick’s dinner only to discover that his party game has a nasty twist. The game is deadly version of “Would You Rather” in which electric shocks, icepicks and various other weapons are used on the players. You can guess where things go from there.
Instead of treating its plot with a deadly straight-face and focusing on long shots of gore, WOULD YOU RATHER takes a classier approach to its disturbing premise. We get a nice slow build up that lets us care for Iris (played well by Brittany Snow) before the horrifying reveal of the game. The players all have their introductory moments that allow us to predict who might die and how. The film never goes into full-blown torture porn territory either as there’s a dark sense of humor and a few nasty twists around every corner. Director David Guy Levy takes a less-is-more approach in terms of what violence we see on-screen. There are moments where you’ll find yourself cringing not because you see a grisly bit of gore, but rather because there’s something horrible happening off-screen and we can only imagine what it looks like. That being said, we still get occasional moments of on-screen violence. Seeing as a lot of the blood is left to our imaginations, these unexpected shots become more effective as a result.
Jeffrey Combs is clearly having a blast as Shepard Lambrick and plays his aristocratic psycho with a snarky sense of humor. You might find yourself laughing at just how much of a jerk this guy is to his already doomed victims. Equally enjoyable is Jonny Coyne (one of the more underrated actors working today) as the benevolent butler Bevins who helps administer a few of the players’ more violent choices. The only real bad performance of the film comes in Sasha Grey (yes, that Sasha Grey) trying to pull off a Southern accent that comes and goes depending on the scene. The film also runs a tad too long with one side-plot that goes nowhere and makes you wonder what was the point of even including it (taking up about 10 minutes of total screen time).
WOULD YOU RATHER is a darkly enjoyable little horror flick that serves as a clever alternative to other gory films featuring a similar premise. This movie is elevated by most of the performances, especially that of Jeffrey Combs, and a less-is-more approach. The dark sense of humor also helps out the material considerably. If this sounds like you’re kind of film, then I’d highly recommend that you give it a look.