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Would You Rather (2012)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/9/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/10/2013
Following the release of Saw in 2004, it suddenly became en vogue to label many horror films as "torture porn". (Looking back, the irony of this is that many of the imitators which followed Saw were far more violent and harrowing, and not as clever and creative, than that film. Yes, I'm looking at you Hostel.) Just as with the slasher cycle in the early 80s, wannabe horror filmmakers suddenly found an inexpensive way to churn out a movie -- tie a person to a chair, have them scream, and then hope that Redbox or Netflix picks it up. Truth be told, outside of the Saw franchise, not many were trying something different with the sub-genre. Well, it may be a little late to the party (pun intended), but Would You Rather does try to spice things up a bit.
Iris (Brittany Snow) is in a tough position. She has left school to take care of her brother, Raleigh (Logan Miller), who has cancer. But, she can't find a job and they can't afford his treatment. Dr. Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) introduces Iris to Shep Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs), a wealthy man who invites Iris to a dinner party for an opportunity to get the money to help her brother. Iris is very reluctant, but decides that she has no choice. She arrives at the party to find seven assorted strangers, all of whom have a reason to want Lambrick's money. Joined by Lambrick's odd son Julian (Robin Taylor), the dinner begins, and Lambrick immediately begins daring his guests to do some odd things in exchange for money. However, the eccentricity turned to lunacy when the real games begins. The players find themselves put in a position where they must make decisions which could lead to death.
Screenwriter Steffen Schlachtenhaufen (it just rolls off of the tongue, doesn't it) has crafted an odd hybrid of a film here. It plays like Dinner with Schmucks combined with Hostel and then laden with an "Old Dark House" movie from the 1950s in which visitors entered the abode of an insane host. I knew little about the movie going in and that's the best way to view it. We know from the outset that something sinister is going to happen, but the way in which things escalate once the party begins is surprising. However, there is a question of tone here. The movie is very violent and graphic, rarely flinching from the atrocities at hand. And yet, there is a subtle spirit of camp here, provided mostly be Jeffrey Combs, and I can see how some members of the audience could find this funny, when there's really nothing humorous going on. The movie should have been either totally bleak, which could have been unbearable, or more tongue-in-cheek.
There's also a question of the film's pacing. This is Director David Guy Levy's first feature-length film with a large cast and scope (his first movie was shot completely on a Flip camera) and he does a good job of staging the action and creating some suspense at times. However, the editing could have definitely used some tightening. Would You Rather runs only 93-minutes, but I feel that several minutes could have been shaved off of it. Levy makes the decision to give the movie a real-time feel, especially in the scenes where things are being timed. However, the film would have benefited from a pace which made the viewer feel just a exhausted and on-edge as the characters are. And I don't know who decided that going for a "groaner" ending was a good idea. I'm sure that this was meant to pack a final punch to the viewer, but it simply comes off as something which would have make Rod Serling hold his head in his hands.
One thing which Would You Rather does have going for it is the cast. Brittany Snow (who also served as an Executive Producer on the film) continues to expand her diverse filmography, but it's the fact that we've seen her in things like Hairspray which make Iris' actions all the more shocking. Of course, Jeffrey Combs is great. The man doesn't seem to age and no one plays condescending like him. We also get appearance by John Heard and Eddie Steeples (Crabman!). The movie definitely suffers from some issues in the way that the story is told, but nonetheless Would You Rather has some cringe-worthy moments and is worth checking out if you want to see how far violent movies have come.
Would You Rather could have done a lot more with the barrel on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of IFC Films. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and realistic, but the image is somewhat dark in some shots. The picture is well-balanced, as the level of detail is good and the depth is acceptable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. During the dinner scene, the mix does a good job of re-creating the various sounds coming from around the room and positioning these in the front and rear channels. The subwoofer comes in during the more violent scenes and we get detailed surround sound during one chase scene.
The only extras on the Would You Rather Blu-ray Disc are a POSTER GALLERY and a TRAILER.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.