There have been a lot of horror movies based on games. We have Ready or Not, which is based off of hide and seek, Truth or Dare (it has been made into a movie more than once!), and of course, Would You Rather. For those who don’t know how the game in this 2012 release movie goes, you are asked a question and given two options: A or B (ex. “Would you rather get stuck in this place that’s maybe alright, but kind of bad or that place, which could be worse?”).
Now, this sounds a lot like something from the Saw franchise. Games where only one will get out alive and a whole lot of death and gore involved, right? That’s because Would You Rather is in the same horror category as Saw and Eli Roth’s Hostel series: the torture horror or “torture porn” as it’s commonly known in the film and horror community.
Torture horror was incredibly popular in the early 2000s due to all the paranoia around terrorist attacks and the horrific torture methods (from terrorists groups and prisons) in a post September 11th attacks world. The invention of the torture horror was also due to the boredom of the public from all the slasher sequels and prequels that just dragged their franchises on for too long (ex. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Bride of Chucky, Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan, Scream 3, etc.) All of those sequels only gave the audience killers that were less and less scary and the protagonists/victims getting so bad personality wise that you would want them dead. Thus, a new horror category was born.
Would You Rather was a bit late into the torture horror game with its 2012 release. At the time, the horror cycle was made up of demons and malevolent ghosts with the releases of Paranormal Activity series. Thus, when released, Would You Rather was still a (somewhat) welcome change to the horror genre of the time. Before we continue, there is a warning: this film is not for the faint of heart or easily squeamish because of the intense amounts of gore. That is a standard for majority of torture films and why certain audiences and critics hate them so much. If you decide to watch Would You Rather, know that you may need to look away from the screen more than once.
The plot of the movie is that a young woman named Iris (played by Brittney Snow), who is desperate for money in order to find a cure for her brother’s illness, enters a deadly game run by the twisted billionaire, Shepard Lambrick, played by Jeffery Combs (Herbert West from the Reanimator films). Lambrick hosts a dinner for the contestants prior to starting the game and there is some foreshadowing. He offers Iris, a vegetarian, money to eat a steak and Conway, an alcoholic, money to drink Scotch. They both compromise themselves by accepting and the game starts. Despite entering the twisted game for money, the contestants rather quickly realize that their plight is all for Shepard’s sick amusement and try to escape after the second round, but things go downhill quickly, as expected.
The plot thickens after Dr. Barden (played by Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) gets Shepard’s son, Julian out of the way. He’s played by the incredibly talented Robin Lord Taylor (for you Batman fans, he was The Penguin in the very excellent TV series, Gotham). Barden does this because Julian was attempting to attack Iris. Then for the insane third round, the contestants must choose between being placed underwater or getting an unknown task on the card in front of them. As the game goes on, more and more contestants are eliminated. For the fourth round, Iris and one of the contestants, Lucas (portrayed by Enver Gjokaj), are the only ones left. Shepard gives Iris a choice: shoot Lucas or spare him, but walk away with no money. What a difficult situation for Iris!
This decision also brings up a good moral dilemma: do you kill an innocent stranger in order to save your brother, or do you let him live and your brother dies? Although the ending is quite bleak, the film does pose those difficult moral questions: what are you willing to do for money? How far will you go? Is it worth it? This film will definitely make you ponder those questions.
If you want to think on morality, dabble in torture horror or enjoyed Hostel or Saw, check out Would you Rather.