Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Dare (2019) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Jay (Bart Edwards) is a workaholic, struggling to find enough time for his wife and two young children. His home life, when he's there, has been tense. Not the best situation, then, in which to experience a home invasion during his one night off. Before we know it, he's waking up chained in a basement with three other desperate people. They've already been there for some time, being forced to torture each other by their sadistic captor. If they disobey, they have been told, their families will be killed.
What's going on? These days, as attentive horror fans will know, every villain of this sort has a reason, be it personal or moral, and none of these prisoners are old enough to remember the world working any differently. What they need to do is put the pieces together to figure out the connection between them and their captor's identity - if they last that long.
There are some serious flaws here, but none that we haven't seen in similar films before. It takes a long time for the prisoners to figure out the rather obvious fact that their tormentor is working alone, and that if, when handed a knife, they stab him instead of each other, their families will have nothing to worry about. We can make allowances for those who have been there a long time not thinking clearly but we have to assume that Jay is just a bit dim. We also have to assume that some powerful new antibiotic is being added to the prisoners' food because with the amount of skin damage that goes on in their filthy little cell, they'd otherwise be dead from sepsis within a few days.
Serious genre fans are, of course, unlikely to care about all this. There's an accepted element of fantasy in such tales. What matters is the mystery, along with the grotesquerie and, in better takes, the character dynamics. Here the characters are all pretty unpleasant - the most sympathetic actually being the villain, who seems genuinely damaged to the point of having limited control. Writer/director Giles Alderson does some interesting things with this, however, especially in the awkwardness of the dynamic between Jay and the cell's only female prisoner (Alexandra Evans), who pretty much gives him an instant reason to dislike her.
The more sophisticated parts of the narrative are developed in flashback and this is where Alderson shows his potential, working particularly well with younger actors and showing a good understanding of the dynamics of childhood. He invites us to accept the popular idea that everyone changes as they grow older, undergoing some kind of redemption for past sins, only to complicate that further at the end.
The final scenes (pre-prologue) would have been more powerful if cut shorter; they drag out conflict for the sake of it, and there are pacing problems elsewhere too, but Alderson has at least made an effort to do something with his story besides reminding us that people have red stuff inside them, which we knew. There's a sense here of a better film trying to get out, of the director hiding behind formula and not quite daring to make his own voice heard. As it is, it's strictly one for the gorehounds.Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2020