Friday, July 17, 2015

Quick Cut Review: "Would You Rather"

This is what I like to call a High Concept movie. It's not so much about the characters as it is more based around a single idea and throwing a bunch of different characters with personality disorders into the mix and seeing how they react. It can almost be viewed as an experiment and indeed watching the film does feel like some sort of twisted game not unlike the one the characters are forced to play. Would you rather turn it off or would you rather sit there and watch these people torture themselves and others for sake of our own entertainment? Read the full review after the break.

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.

Now, as for what doesn't work there are only two things that need mentioned. First is that glaring flaw, a flaw so in your face that it almost ruins the entire experience simply because of how obvious it is. Early on in the game everyone is able to ask any questions they want about the game and are even given free reign to leave before the game begins. While a range of questions are asked in regards to the rules of the game such as what happens when someone can't choose or is unable to continue, the one question that should have been on every single person's mind issn't what happens if they can't choose, it's what happens when they DON'T choose? You see, when someone refuses to choose they are eliminated, a carefully chosen word used over and over again before the game begins, and no one ever bothers to ask what being eliminated from the game consists of. Had anyone bothered to ask that one simple question then chances are every single one of them would have left when they had the chance (but then we wouldn't have a movie to watch either so the dilemma becomes do we want smart characters who live to see another day or dumb ones we get to see tortured for the next hour?).

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.

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