MOVIE PREVIEW “There are four rules: Once you’re asked, you’re in. You must tell the truth, or you die. You must do the dare, or you die. If you stop playing the game, then you die.” —Jason Blum
Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars) and Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf) star as college seniors Olivia and Lucas in Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, the terrifying new supernatural thriller from Blumhouse Productions (Happy Death Day, Get Out, Split).
When a tightly knit group of friends embark upon their last undergraduate getaway and engage in a harmless game of “Truth or Dare,” the game follows them home, forcing them to play or face the deadly consequences.
That’s how it started
Directed by Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2, Cry Wolf) and produced by Jason Blum (Whiplash, Get Out), the film co-stars VIOLETT BEANE as Markie, Olivia’s best friend who is battling demons of her own; HAYDEN SZETO as Brad, racked with a secret he feels his family can’t discover; LANDON LIBOIRON as Carter, the manipulative newcomer who invites the group into his deadly trap; SOPHIA ALI as Penelope, the life of the party who will face a horrific crossroads; and NOLAN GERARD FUNK as Penelope’s boyfriend, Tyson, an aspiring grad student whose ego might be the death of him.
Truth or Dare co-stars SAM LERNER as Ronnie, the most immature senior at the school; AURORA PERRINEAU as Giselle, who has been running from the curse for so long she can no longer take it; TOM CHOI as Brad’s father, a stern cop who can’t understand why his son won’t open up; VERA TAYLOR as Inez Reyes, a mysterious woman who holds the key to their fate; and GREGG DANIEL as Detective Kranis, who wants to help but refuses to believe that an unspeakable evil is responsible for these deaths.
The filmmaker is joined behind the camera by a talented group of collaborators including director of photography is JACQUES JOUFFRET (The Purge series), editor SEAN ALBERTSON (Warrior), production designer MELANIE PAIZIS-JONES (Whiplash), costume designer LISA NORCIA (Insidious: The Last Key) and composer MATTHEW MARGESON (Kingsman: The Secret Service).
Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare is executive produced by Wadlow and Roach, alongside JEANETTE VOLTURNO (Get Out) and COUPER SAMUELSON (Whiplash).
Very Personal. Very Fast. Truth or Dare Begins
In 2016, when writer/director Jeff Wadlow, the mind behind the wildly inventive Kick-Ass 2 and the break-out thriller Cry Wolf, was considering his next project, he met with master horror filmmaker Jason Blum to discuss potential opportunities for collaboration with Blumhouse. Wadlow felt that their track-record of innovative, blockbuster thrillers—from Happy Death Day and Get Out to Split—made the production house an ideal option. It would be a short time later that Truth or Dare would be greenlit as the next movie from a company known for its innovation and risk taking.
Wadlow has long been interested in the intersection of thrills, action and humor in his art. Whether he is telling the tale of a homemade-costumed vigilante who gets caught up in a web of violence bigger than any conspiracy he can imagine—or producing a pulse-pounding tale in which a disgraced air marshal must prevent mass destruction—nothing is more intriguing to him than crafting a tale in which nothing is as it seems. In the filmmaker’s world, it is crucial to always keep the audience guessing…
Blum notes that he has wanted to work with Wadlow for some time, and Truth or Dare felt like the ideal fit. The producer has followed his career since Cry Wolf, and Blum appreciated that his director so deftly handles the intricacies of horror…and just how detailed Wadlow is with story mapping.
“I love projects where we have real parameters,” Blum states. “Usually it is budgets, but even a title can be a real challenge. Jeff had this terrific idea based on a concept we’d been playing with, and he worked on the script. He is a writer/director with a great deal of experience, and he was very comfortable with our budget, as well as the number of days he’d have and the scope we laid out. He wasn’t surprised by any of it, and that allowed him to excel. As a result, we’re doing more projects together—both on our television and the movie side.”
“We really hit it off…”
The newest member of the Blumhouse team walks us through the genesis of Truth or Dare. “I had a general meeting with Jason, and we really hit it off,” Wadlow says. “We were discussing different ideas, and he asked me to come back in a few months later. He and [executive producer] Couper Samuelson wondered if I’d be interested in writing and directing a movie called Truth or Dare.” Working from only a general concept, the producers believed that Wadlow would bring a fascinating take on the idea, as well as deliver a genre-bending film that is signature to Blumhouse.
Discussing his inspiration, Wadlow says: “I wanted to make a fun, smart, scary movie with real stakes. Cry Wolf was my first bite at the horror-genre apple, and when Jason and Couper came to me with this germ of an idea, I thought this was a great opportunity to create a film that audiences could buy into.”
Wadlow liked the idea of crafting a narrative that explores the lengths to which close friends will go to stay alive…one that also asks the audience: “How far would you go to survive this game?” The filmmaker admits that he’s long seen the humor in horror. “We knew it would be crucial to walk the line and make the stakes feel very real among these friends, but also give the audience permission to laugh at the right moments. I’ve always tried to find levity in the dark parts of my own life, and it was important to walk this tightrope between raw emotion and real laughs.”
What’s the story?
Working from a story by fellow screenwriter Michael Reisz, Wadlow and his close collaborators—Christopher Roach and Jillian Jacobs—put pen to paper to explore a thriller that was as inspired by It Follows and The Ring as it was by Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. “We built something that we hope is as dangerous as it is fun,” notes the director. “We knew this game that the characters were playing should be smart, tailoring its evil, and it should use cracks that exist in their relationships to get at them.”
The more that Wadlow and his fellow writers developed the narrative, the more they learned that there are versions of the game of “Truth or Dare,” that exist in almost every culture. The rules give people the go-ahead to do what they wouldn’t normally do—like kiss a crush or reveal something deeply personal. “Rarely are we given permission to do something that we shouldn’t,” Wadlow says. “We took that aspect of the game, and then we added life-or-death stakes. We say that not only do you get to do and say these things you wouldn’t normally be allowed to, but if you don’t…you’re going to die. That formed a sort of perfect storm, providing opportunities for a lot of wish fulfillment…as well as a lot of terrifying moments.”
As they worked on the screenplay, the writers knew they had to solve two issues. They had to give the game real, life-or-death, stakes and they had to have winners and losers. The story had to force characters to reveal their darkest secrets…and push them as far as possible while trying to stay alive. Wadlow and his team decided that through a series of exploitations—a deadly, heightened version of what the game teaches us about ourselves—an ancient trickster demon called Callux must move in for the kill. Sums Blum: “The game uses the personal history of these kids against them.”
They imagined a group of college friends who head to Mexico for one last getaway before they begin their post-grad lives and head their separate ways. As with any core crew, long-brewing romances and allegedly buried conflicts begin to emerge as they prepare to say goodbye. When a handsome stranger cons our heroine into getting her friends to play a supposedly silly game of “Truth or Dare,” they awaken a trickster demon that is hell-bent on getting them to share their darkest secrets or confront their deepest fear…and if they don’t, they’ll pay the ultimate price. “If you want to live,” says the director, “you have to either answer as honestly as possible or do the one thing you don’t want to do.”
Ultimately, Callux forces the group to decide how far they are willing to go to protect their friends. “Olivia and Markie’s relationship is the central one in the film, which is why it has to be tested,” shares Wadlow. “Both of them are in love with Lucas, and he’s the third point of that triangle. They have to learn what it is like to sacrifice everything for the ones you love, if they want to make it out alive.”
A slow progress into horror
One of the more entertaining aspects of building the narrative was planting seeds for the audience, allowing the story to move progressively into more terrifying territory. Ultimately, every truth-or-dare sequence was designed to highlight a flaw, weakness or secret a character had been harboring. This ensured that it all felt organic to the character. Wadlow explains: “We show you that this one character has a drinking problem and that one has a crush on her best friend’s boyfriend. As the game evolves, and more probing questions are asked by—as well as more personal dares—it’s my hope that the audience starts to lean in, learning more about the players. This allows them to play along and have fun, experiencing the dares, and having a reaction to the questions. They’re not only connecting with the characters but also enjoying Callux’s malevolence.”
Sharing his inaugural experience working within the Blumhouse model, Wadlow reflects: “Jason’s the best kind of producer, as he is hands on when needed, and understands what it means to be hands off. From our editor’s cut to director’s cut—all throughout the process—he guided us to make the best version of what we were doing. I appreciate that his attitude is that the film was ours to sink or swim, and there were definitely challenges working with a budget that was a fraction of my last film. However, ultimately, it meant our team had to be more creative when figuring out how to tell this story. Jason has an incredible group of people working on his projects, and I’m so thrilled I got a chance to work with so many of them.”
-PS4Pro- (To be continued…)