I wish the film had aspirations as high as that but in reality this thriller so named "Would You Rather", based on the old kids game, is more interested in the thrill of the kill than it is trying to make a statement on how we justify watching others in pain. Thankfully though on that particular level the film works despite one glaring flaw that renders much of the film null and void and an ending that will have some throwing the remote at the screen and others shrugging their shoulders. Much in the same style of films like the Saw franchise and Hostel (not exactly the type of material one usually finds inspiration in), but mercifully less graphic, Would You Rather is a film that tests your patience as much as your tolerance for horrifying acts of violence.
We begin our decent into the unknown when we meet Iris (Brittany Snow) , a single woman living with her sick younger brother, both of whom recently lost their parents. Iris is having trouble making ends meet and is about to lose her home on top of which she needs an exorbarant amount of money to get her brother a bone marrow transplant. It is then that Iris is approached by a mysterious benefactor named Mr. Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) who says he has the ability to pay off all her outstanding debts and put her brother's name at the top of the transplant list, but she must attend a private party he is throwing and play a game where she will compete with others in desperate need of help.
With only the word of her brother's doctor (Lawrence Gilliard) to go off of, who won last year's game, and no where else left to turn, Iris relunctantly accepts Lambrick's invitation. That same night she is met with a car that takes her to the Lambrick estate where she meets for the first time the seven strangers she will be competing against which range from a recovering alcoholic (John Heard), a standoff-ish young woman (Sasha Grey) and an old woman in a wheel chair (June Squibb) to name just a few. She also meets Lambrick's son Julian (Robin Lord Taylor) who devilishly looks on as everyone prepares for the upcoming game, whatever it may be.
To say anymore would be to ruin what the film does best, surprise and likely revolt you. To truly appreciate what Would You Rather is one must be able to understand the darker side of humanity and accept that when put under duress, we will often do unspeakable things to survive. It would be easy to label Would Your Rather as torture porn since a good portion of its brief run time consists of watching these seemingly innocent people forced to torture others and even themselves at times. This isn't one of those films you will want to throw on to have a few laughs, this is a film to put on if you want to disturb someone. In that specific case the film works, as it is impossible to not get caught up with the game they are all forced to play and even though you might have a hard time watching you will keep watching simply because when we are presented with an unknown that is so tantalizing we can't help but stick around and see it through to the bloody end.
Lastly, and more perplexing, is how individuals will react to the ending, an ending I myself was able to guess but not until near the end of the film. But it is such a bold decision by the filmmakers that there is no way it will not upset those more inclined towards your traditional Hollywood style ending. This isn't a film that fills you with much hope in the first place, as evidenced by the fate of a particular character halfway through, and the ending is the cherry on top of this sadistic tale. Some will hate it, others will praise it, but most will likely feel indifferent towards it. In any case, the film gets kudos for ending on a note that will force viewers to never forget it for better or worse.
If you want another way to gauge the effectiveness of a film like Would You Rather then ask yourself this. Did you continue to think about it long after it concluded and if you saw it with another person did the theme of the film and its outcome spark any sort of conversation or debate? If you answered yes to both of those then regardless of whether or not you may think of the film's content, there is no denying it had an effect on you. If you answered yes to only one or no to both, well...perhaps you are the type of person who wouldn't have gone to the party in the first place and the film just wasn't meant for you.