I’d rather do something else.
In a bid to help her sick brother, a desperate young woman (Brittany Snow) attends a dinner party hosted by a wealthy aristocrat (Jeffrey Combs). The party culminates with a game against other down-on-their-luck attendees in a winner take all version of the children’s game, would you rather?
Slotting in to the pejoratively named sub-genre of “torture porn”, ‘Would You Rather’ is a formulaic, predictable and overall tepid entry into an already vastly overcrowded subgenre. While it is quite safe to say that part of the appeal for this particularly type of movie is morbid curiosity into the barbarity displayed, ‘Would You Rather’ offers very little to separate itself from its peers.
The premise is interesting enough: how far would you go to save someone you love? Much like the genre, it is an overdone premise but at least this movie approaches the subject somewhat differently, as we see mostly well-meaning people slowly face the harsh reality that brutality is not merely the only way to get what they want but indeed to survive at all. These hapless pawns, subject to the whims of a madman who seems all too keen to break his own rules when it suits his sadistic urges, change over the course of the evening’s sickening events and thus the level of violence and callousness is slowly elevated.
Yet overall the movie falls rather flat. Everything is predictable, from the supposedly shocking swerve ending (both of them) to the various events that precede them. The fact that only Brittany Snow‘s character is fleshed out in any sense of the term is a massive indicator of how the story will proceed and that in itself removes much of the potential for tension that could be drawn from the movie.
It isn’t entirely a bad film though. Jeffrey Combs is, frankly, fantastic as the charismatic yet utterly insane antagonist. The iconic horror showman is permitted to exhibit a surprising amount of acting range, bringing a humanity to such an inhuman character. Brittany Snow performs quite well, although without the same amount of depth as Combs and various familiar faces such as Eddie Steeples (‘My Name is Earl’), John Heard (numerous films and TV shows since forever), Enver Gjokaj (‘Dollhouse’) and even ex-porn actress Sasha Grey succeed in ensuring you simply can’t criticise this one for its acting.
The truth is that there isn’t a whole lot to say about this film. For many it will likely lie in the “better than I thought it would be” category of film but that would be ignoring so much missed potential. Unfortunately, the current trend in exploitation movies is to bring elaborate set-pieces for gratuitous violence to basic and straightforward stories. The violence in this film is quite tame compared to other films, although with stabbings, shootings, eyeball torture, attempted rape, drowning and electrocutions it is far from family-friendly. But there is nothing shocking about the movie and that is where the problem lies.
Given the credible amount of acting talent that has been assembled for this production it is somewhat unfortunate that it has all been so tragically wasted. A few minor improvements could have significantly enhanced the dramatic tension and converted the film from ninety minutes of “Yeah, I was expecting that” to ninety minutes of “Holy balls!” We don’t necessarily want everything to turn into ‘Game Of Thrones’ but writer Steffen Schlachtenhaufen and director David Guy Levy could learn a thing or two from George RR Martin‘s work and in the future consider throwing a few surprises in along the way because the simple fact is audiences have seen this type of thing one too many times before.
Trailer on YouTube.