Directed by David Guy Levy
Written by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen
IMDb Rotten Tomatoes
Welcome horror fans! Finally after what seems forever Old Man Feind was finally able to take in some horror. It’s been a little bit of a horror drought for me despite some excellent suggestions from friends of The Scribblers but due to technical difficulties I haven't been able to take them in. Thanx to Netflix I ended the drought but was this some awful cheesefest or something special?
Would You Rather (2013)
Directed by David Guy Levy
Written by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen
IMDb Rotten Tomatoes
So I haven’t been able to watch as much as I usually do recently due to technical difficulties but I’m also settling into new routines that I can’t seem to regulate yet but such is life. However, thanks to some free time with Netflix the other night I began the endless search for something to tickle my horror bone. While I do love buckets of blood and piles of gore the horror flicks I like best are good original stories. I can suffer through terrible acting in small indie films or directors just getting started learning their craft or lackluster FX due to the constraints of miniscule budgets but there is one thing that doesn’t cost a thing that makes or breaks a movie whether it’s horror or anything else and that’s a good, well written story that isn’t the same damn thing we’ve all seen a gazillion times. It’s difficult to be truly original in an idea or premise since let’s face it really everything has pretty much been done or thought of already but you can tell a story in your own voice from a unique perspective or by combining different ideas in new ways. I know I’m rambling a bit but I mention all this because Would You Rather had extremely high potential to be just one big awful cheesefest since if you don’t quickly think of Saw based on the premise of this one then either you don’t think about things at all because you’re not very bright or perhaps you’re a young horror fan who hasn’t seen the Saw films yet (really just watch the first one it’s all downhill from there). The second case is forgivable while the first is not so for those who just aren’t very bright please go away. Now I’ll stop babbling and get on with this one.
One of the reasons I babbled on there is because Would You Rather if poorly written could have been terrible but luckily it was pretty well written using what to me was the combination of a couple of old ideas putting a nice horrible spin on them. First, as I mentioned Would You Rather should bring the Saw films to mind, “Wanna play a game?”, and the second thing that it should call to mind is a premise that has been used in numerous ways both in horror and other genres and that is the Agatha Christie classic Ten Little Indians. Would You Rather loosely combines these two story ideas to make an interesting and fun film to watch where you can just sit back and enjoy or try to anticipate the different twists and turns before they happen. I usually end up doing the latter whether I really want to or not, I can’t really help it. Another reason I enjoyed Would You Rather is because I can see myself writing a story like this (well not now of course!). Would You Rather is written and filmed as a gritty realistic story, there are no monsters, at least of the supernatural kind, nor any mindless killing machines ala Jason, Freddy or Michael. Since I think I tend to write that way most of the time I’m really surprised I haven’t written something very similar to this and well now I cannot. So by now you’re probably thinking “WTF was this damn movie about Feind?!?” Well first don’t yell at me and second here it comes so keep your damn pants on!
One thing I should mention here is that while Would You Rather is a smaller indie film it was produced by IFC Films so it isn’t a microbudget indie like many others we’ve highlighted. This one has the inimitable Jeffrey Combs as well as several other faces you may recognize now even if you didn’t when the film was made just a couple of years ago. Brittany Snow (Prom Night or the Pitch Perfect films – No I have not nor will I ever watch these films!) and Robin Lord Taylor (The Penquin on Gotham) are a couple new faces you might recognize but you’ll also recognize veterans John Heard and June Squibb, Lawrence Gilliard Jr and for adult film aficionados there’s the lovely Sasha Grey. The cast is full of faces you may recognize from different TV series or films so Would You Rather does not suffer from poor acting to go with its well written script. And here we are and I’ve still not mentioned what the hell the film is about. Oh well!
Honestly, I can’t say too much or I’ll be giving away the farm so I’ll keep it simple and brief. Eight people in need of some sort of urgent assistance are invited to the home of Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) to play a game for the chance to win what they need. Iris (Brittany Snow) is desperate to help her brother who needs a bone marrow transplant so with reluctance she agrees to participate. It bears mentioning that the eight “contestants” do not know what the game is just that they have been invited to play for a chance to solve their particular problem. The evening begins with a dinner where Iris is offered $10,000 to eat a steak after she explains that she is a vegetarian. A few moments later Conway (John Heard) earns $50K by drinking an entire decanter of scotch when Shepard discovers he is a recovering alcoholic. These wagers are as nice as it gets. After dinner Shepard explains the rules of the game, each “contestant” will be given a choice between two things neither of which is likely to be very pleasant, they must choose one of the two options or they are eliminated from the game and they will have fifteen seconds to make their choice (30 seconds in later rounds) with failure to choose resulting in elimination. It sounds simple enough and it is other than the choices they are given. The tasks start simple with two players at a time having an electrode belt attached to their head where the “Would You Rather” is to shock themselves or shock the other player. That's as easy as it gets, the choices only get perpetually worse from there.
As I said at the beginning, this film could have ended up in total cheese territory but it stays pretty gritty and realistic throughout. Combs very much reminds me of his contemporary, Groovy Bruce Campbell, with a performance full of seriousness when needed and some dry wit as well. Combs like Campbell is utterly fantastic at conveying feeling and mood with mere facial expressions rather than needing pages of dialogue. Robin Lord Taylor plays Combs’ arrogant spoiled son who is possibly even more sadistic than his father in enjoying “the game.” Players are forced to do terrible things as each round gets more and more depraved and players are rapidly eliminated. With Iris (Brittany Snow) being the “star” of this flick you know she is one of the final two contestants but does she win? I ain’t gonna tell you so you’ll have to seek this one out to find out for yourself.
In the end Would You Rather stayed clear of the cheese though being precariously close at times making this a very enjoyable film that hopefully will get a sequel at some point since there are a million directions this story could go in. Also I have to give a gigantic kudos to writer Steffen Schlachtenhaufen (say that 10 times fast!) for not giving some “happily ever after” ending. It’s only my opinion but I truly believe horror movies/books should not have happy endings. It’s horror, it should be y’know horrifying but that’s just my opinion. The ending is a twist you may or may not see coming. I sort of saw the ending coming but I was distracted thinking the twist at the end was going to be something else so I really wasn’t expecting it which made it a very pleasant surprise. A hint to any other writers out there: don’t do what’s obvious and expected and steer clear of just doing some awful deus ex machina as well. Your “twist”, if you have one, should be foreshadowed but not so much so that everyone with an IQ over 50 will pick up on it. Again that’s just my opinion so take it for what it’s worth. I very much enjoyed Would You Rather throughout and there is very little I would have had them do differently. Is it as good as the first Saw movie? Probably not but then I never saw that ending coming at all which puts that one over the top for me anyway. Would You Rather passed The Scribbler Clock Test with flying colors, I highly recommend it thus it can be dubbed…
Now somebody please get these two in a damn movie together! Though the screen just may explode from too much awesome!
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Feind loves watching movies of all kinds so if we watch it, we tell whether you should as well. I'll share mostly horror but I also enjoy everything from big Blockbusters to micro-budget Independent films.
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