Microbudget slasher series goes back to its roots with a callback to the mid-1980s original
This week’s review is for one of those flicks where the filmmakers decide to say the hell with a whole bunch of the ones that we did before with the same title and here’s the REAL sequel to the first one that we did.
And, while that is a step up from taking the first one and doing a full out remake, such a “deletequel” requires all kinds of mental contortions from die-hard fans — just ask the hardcore Halloween fanatics about how that works.
When they go this route, filmmakers are asking a lot because the fans have to: a) accept the fact that the timeline of the characters whom they’ve come to enjoy and be fans of just got upended in favor of money; b) accept the fact that whatever one was their favorite sequel before this one came out just got kicked in the gazebos to the curb in favor of this new narrative; and c) resist the urge to be spiteful and not be enraged enough at the filmmakers so that they actually give the new flick a chance.
So here we are with I Dared You! Truth or Dare 5, a sequel to a microbudget mid-1980s slasher that you’d find in finer independent video stores back in the day. Full disclosure: I’m at a disadvantage because I have not seen any of the four preceding flicks before popping in this one, and so I can’t just go on and analyze how this one holds up when compared to what happens halfway through Truth or Dare 3.
First thing I noticed — they weren’t able to get Madonna back for this one — same title, different horror show. (For those of you who are too young to get that reference, make sure the safe search is on when you look it up).
The real first thing I noticed is the epic collection of big-box videocassettes in the video store being examined by a teen named Dax, who’s hanging out in the horror section and pulls out a video copy of the original Truth or Dare. Retro VHS aficionados will want to grab a cold shower immediately following and invest in a new pause button on the remote. Dax then gets yelled at by his mother who is working the register for picking up such trash and then, in a flashback that apparently appeared in the original Truth or Dare (I assume), is chainsawed in the head by a guy in a mask as he drives by. The guy in the mask must have just got the car aligned.
After further review, the scene immediately should have caused a time paradox and made the laptop I was watching the DVD on implode in a spark of improbability. Namely, how does the killer from a fictional movie attack a kid in the “real” world of the movie unless the movie that Dax picked up wasn’t the same Truth or Dare? Five minutes in, Truth or Dare 5 already proves that Stephen Hawking (or was it Douglas Adams?) was wrong about time paradoxes.
The flashback provided by co-directors Tim Ritter and Scott Tepperman in the opening credits is appreciated, but they didn’t do enough of it early enough in the flick so that people like yours truly knew the backstory. I didn’t learn the name of the killer from the first flick, Mike Strauber, until about 3/4s of the way through the movie, but it wasn’t a stunning revelation or mystery and could have just been stated at the start. Same thing with the revelation that Strauber was the name behind the weird Truth or Dare website that serves as the chassis for the plot.
So after some (insistent is the best way to describe it) synth music, we learn that Dax (Tepperman) is all grown up and is just being released by his doctor from the really rundown medical facility out in the middle of nowhere where he had been getting treatment. After getting a business card from Dr. Desmond Hall (Jim O’Rear) with a web address written on it, Dax’s first act of freedom is to find himself a hotel room, strangle the clerk who escorts him to the room, chainsaw her in the bathtub and eat part of her after chopping off her head.
Doc Desmond obviously does psychology REAL GOOD.
Dax then visits the website which is part of the “dark web,” I guess, where people follow each other upload videos of themselves torturing other people after receiving dares or something of that effect. He bonds with Sarah, who enjoys watching his videos where he dons an Energizer headlamp, burglarizes a house and tapes strangers who are so busy aardvarking that they don’t notice the big guy with the half mask in the room with them taping them aardvarking. That happens later on as well.
We then meet Dan Hess (Joel D. Wynkoop), who is given a case of money by a relative of a victim of the original Truth or Dare killer, and Hess is going to get to the bottom of this whole website. He then busts into the basement of a guy who is threatening to electrocute an old guy on a livestream and yells at him that he’s “decimating these people! Ruining their lives!”
Ladies and gentlemen, our hero.
Meanwhile Dax gets some vengeance on his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend, helps his devoted follower Sarah get revenge on her abusive ex and starts doing some cat and mouse with Hess, making him go through a gauntlet of painful and embarrassing situations that get broadcast to everyone before an ultimate showdown. Speaking of pain …
- Best Chance at Having His Own AM Radio Call-in Show: Our “hero” Hess is something else. He orders some Chinese takeout and this leads to a Madman-style hot tub spinny makeout session with his wife. She’s later abducted and he goes through a gauntlet of torture to save his wife without batting an eye or calling the police for backup. He barges into a bar while high on heroin, amputates a finger, leaves it in a pickle jar, and screams to everyone in the establishment “It it wasn’t for me, you’d all be dead — dead I tell you!” In one confrontation he comments on the ridiculous, entitled world we live in, then says to a man wearing women’s clothes that “I ought to take this ax handle, shove it up your a– and turn you into a Popsicle.” And by the way, he comes armed to the flick’s final confrontation not with a gun but with his wits alone, honed by his tenure as a hospital security guard. He wins.
- Best at Stating the Obvious: When Hess busts into this basement to break up one of the torture video uploaders’ nefarious deeds, the uploader has a guy wired to a box with a paper sign that has “Danger: High Voltage” handwritten on it.
- Best Way to Add Length to the Screenplay: This monologue performed by the half-masked Dax while sipping a bottled water and standing next to his psychologist as they watch Dax’s ex-girlfriend and her 40-something boyfriend frolick and throw leaves at each other — “Women are so disappointing, you know? Growing up I see them in magazines ever so perfect. I’d lust after them for months on end, tops down, legs wide. Everything exposed to the world, you know? Just waiting to be filled, touched … but then you hook up with them and then you find out that they have feelings, emotions, opinions, bad breath. It’s like they’re real feeling creatures like you and I. That was a revelation, let me tell you. Not a very good one, either. Well, right now I’m contemplating my next move, Doc, whatever it is.”
- Best Use of Physical Media: Dax cuts the throat of Walter, a low-budget filmmaker, with a broken disc (either a CD or DVD), then gets revenge on his ex by strangling her with the tape of a videocassette.
- Best Critique of an Alleged Medical Professional: Dax to Dr. Desmond — “You’re f—d up, scientifically speaking,” but then he ends up teaming up with the manipulative psychologist to ensnare Dan Hess anyway because the ex-hospital orderly let Mike Strawberg escape.
- Best Kids’ TV Homage: The prelude chase to the final showdown between Dax and Dan is straight out of a Scooby-Doo episode.
- Best Worst Understanding About How the Media Works: All sorts of interludes involve person-on-the-street statements about Hess, who, to the best of my judgment (remember, I’ve not seen ANY of the previous flicks) is a private citizen being covered incessantly by ZMT News. Maybe in the grander Truth or Dare universe, good ol’ Hess is a super crusader akin to Loomis in the Halloween flicks, but in this one, all I get from the narrative is that he was an orderly who accepted a bunch of money to try to shut down the Truth or Dare website. Why he’s getting so much attention from the media is a mystery.
A star and a half.
I Dared You! Truth or Dare 5 is available on DVD.