Dr. Lauren McIntyre is a horror obsessive, tattoo connoisseur, natural Goth and cat wrangler. Lauren is genuinely flabbergasted that she managed to score Celluloid Scteams passes. Say hi to her on Twitter: @noddinggoth
Darren Gaskell is a horror obsessive and “enthusiastic” karaoke performer. Darren is waiting for the inevitable problem (e.g. lockdown/meteorite strike/whatever) which will prevent him from attending Celluloid Screams. Say hi to him on Twitter: @darren_gaskell
*** WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS AND ONE F-BOMB – YES, ONLY ONE ***
THE DARE (2019)
Starring: Bart Edwards, Richard Brake, Alexandra Evans
Writers: Giles Anderson, Jonny Grant
Director: Giles Anderson
Darren: This is about Jay, a workaholic guy who’s spending an evening with his family when a shadowy figure turns up at his place, knocks him out, then Jay wakes up in a dingy basement with some other people.
Dr. Lauren: At the beginning of the film we see Jay playing with his two daughters and his wife’s haranguing him for working away all the time. We find out that he’s about to go off to a conference of undetermined character for a few days and it’s clear he spends a lot of time away from his family. Do we ever find out why he’s going away? I don’t think we do.
Darren: I don’t think so. It’s established that he’s very driven by his work and doesn’t spend a lot of time at home.
Dr. Lauren: But it sounds as though he’s not that successful because his wife points out the last conference was the most important one, then the one before that, then the one before that. It sounds as though he’s swanning off to a lot of conferences but not really doing all that much while he’s there.
Darren: Maybe he enjoys the jollies.
Dr. Lauren: Could be. To be honest, if ever I get to go to conferences for work, it’s all about socialising.
Darren: That’s true. I’ve been to very few conferences over the last few years but the ones I have been to invariably ended up with me being absolutely battered.
Dr. Lauren: It’s always a challenge not to accidentally get drunk in front of loads of people who are quite important to your career. In fact, I should have been at a conference this very weekend [this conversation took place in mid-September] but it was cancelled because of Covid.
Darren: Maybe if you’d gone to the conference you might have seen Jay. Jay might just turn up to random conferences.
Dr. Lauren: You think he’d be at an osteology conference in Teesside?
Darren: You never know. Maybe he just goes round the planet attending random conferences.
Dr. Lauren: Which is why his wife’s like “Fuck you, Jay!”.
Darren: Going off to conferences which have no connection at all. He’s probably at some brain surgery conference next.
Dr. Lauren: Getting back on track, fairly soon after he and his wife have had a bit of a tiff, he basically gets kidnapped.
Darren: Not by some anti-conference bloke.
Dr. Lauren: I thought it might have been the wife who set it all up.
Darren: He’s obviously pissed her off quite a bit. Anyway, he ends up in this Saw-esque kind of basement.
Dr. Lauren: Honestly, I would have referred to it as sub-Saw.
Darren: Because the story comes back around on itself I would have called it Circular Saw.
Dr. Lauren: Oh, my God! That’s amazing! They missed a trick there.
Darren: I’m here all week. Tip your waitresses. So, you have the familiar thing with people trapped in a dingy room. They’re not quite sure why they’re there and at regular intervals something genuinely horrible happens.
Dr. Lauren: To be honest, I was surprised with how revolting it got. It was pretty gross.
Darren: When it goes for the nasty stuff, it gets incredibly nasty in places.
Dr. Lauren: Some of it I felt was a little gratuitous and I felt it was going for a torture porn angle but I don’t think it was quite as bad as a lot of the classic torture porn films. If that’s what you’re there for, it’s probably quite tame.
Darren: It doesn’t wallow in really gory violence but it does pull out some unpleasant things. Without giving too much away, there’s something involving a tube and although it’s not gory the actual thought of it is just horrendous. It’s horrible to watch.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah, there are some bits that I didn’t enjoy watching.
Darren: It plays into why the people are there. At the start it might seem like really nasty punishments for the sake of it but as you find out there is some logic as to why they’re suffering in those particular ways.
Dr. Lauren: Although I didn’t think the logical thread was handled so well. Once it’s revealed what was actually going on, I was thinking “Why didn’t anyone notice this about twenty minutes ago?”. Does that make sense?
Darren: Yes. There’s a point where it’s revealed some of the people in the basement might know each other.
Dr. Lauren: How did they not recognise each other?
Darren: It’s a fairly major plot point and because of the fact that if this had happened you would remember it, I was a bit thrown as to how it only dawned on them really late in the day.
Dr. Lauren: Even if you didn’t recognise each other, which in this case was a possibility, the combinations of names would have been a dead giveaway.
Darren: And a couple of things that happened, certainly some of the torture stuff, you’d be able to link it back, it would bring it back to you. For example, the thing with the tube, you’d think “That’s exactly the same as….”. It’s so specific. It doesn’t really work on its own internal logic. It relies on the main characters being so slow to catch on that I did think “Really?”. Jay’s supposed to be a really smart guy but it takes him forever to twig what’s going on.
Dr. Lauren: That says a lot about the film as a whole. I got the feeling that is was going for original Saw or Hostel-level cleverness/gore but it never elevated itself to there.
Darren: The reveal, for me, was quite disappointing, unfortunately.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah.
Darren: There’s a dual timeline that’s going on so you’ve got flashbacks throughout. It gives you historical context as to why things are happening.
Dr. Lauren: It’s not made immediately clear that some of the flashbacks are flashbacks so they could be running concurrently with the main storyline.
Darren: When the second storyline kicked in, I initially thought that might possibly be going on somewhere else close by at the same time or it was a flashback. You do realise later that it’s an origin story.
Dr. Lauren: It feels like a flashback although it’s not that obvious. You get the inkling it is.
Darren: There are no specific pointers in terms of era. It works. Fairly early on you know this is what’s going to eventually lead to Jay getting kidnapped. These sequences are quite effective because Richard Brake and Harry Jarvis are both very good, very convincing.
Dr. Lauren: For all the negative stuff I might say about this, the performances weren’t bad. Richard Brake was pretty good. I didn’t like the woman who played Kat so much.
Darren: At the start I thought she was good. As the film wears on and the characters are put under more and more stress, their motivations become blurred. Sometimes they’re really up for escaping, sometimes they aren’t.
Dr. Lauren: There’s not much consistency.
Darren: You get the usual escapes which aren’t, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. There’s decent enough stuff in it but for me it doesn’t totally hold up.
Dr. Lauren: It felt like it thought it was a lot cleverer than it was. It wasn’t as inventively gory as the films it was trying to emulate and I didn’t think it did anything new.
Darren: If you’re like me and really grossed out by things like fingernails getting pulled off…
Dr. Lauren: The special effects are good. There was one particular moment where CGI was involved and that looked terrible but everything else looked fine.
Darren: The practical effects were well done and they showed just enough of them. The odd thing happens off-camera, which I think is fine. You don’t need to see everything. The bit you’re referring to with the CGI, that works better when what they’re trying to do is obscured. It’s only when you see it in close-up that the overall effect of it falls apart. Don’t get me wrong, it’s disgusting but it’s less so because the effect doesn’t really convince.
Dr. Lauren: I know what you mean.
Darren: I can file it under “interesting but very flawed” than “complete washout”.
Dr. Lauren: It isn’t a terrible film but given the stuff that’s already out there that does the same things better, it falls into the “slightly forgettable” category.
Darren: Yes. I agree. It doesn’t bring anything new, it’s a retread of films you’ve seen before. The reveal, although it makes sense, isn’t particularly staggering.
Dr. Lauren: No. It’s not.
Darren: When the motive is revealed, it does seem to be a bit of an over-reaction considering. There is a get-out because of what Richard Brake’s character does earlier on but that’s the only reason why.
Dr. Lauren: I’d say if you do like gross, capture and torture films give it a go. I don’t think it’d be one I’d rush back to.
Darren: No. Having seen it once I don’t think I’ll be falling over myself to see it again. It’s fine at what it does but it’s no better than that. Also, I think it needed to end five minutes before it actually did.
Dr. Lauren: Ah, the epilogue.
Darren: The tacked-on bit at the end is completely unnecessary.
Dr. Lauren: I felt like the only reason that’s there is that they’re angling for a sequel.
Darren: It would have been better if it had ended five minutes earlier. It came to its natural end and then it carried on and as soon as that happened I knew what was coming. To be honest, it sets up a potential sequel which doesn’t match with the original set of motives anyway. I guess they’re hedging their bets if they want to go off and do a second do which is a direction that rarely flies well with me. And they could have easily set-up a sequel without that last few minutes.
Dr. Lauren: There’s an odd thing, something that I don’t think I’ve seen before. They set the main bad guy up, he’s wearing this gross mask made out of skin. When I saw the cover art I thought he had bees on his face but then I realised he had a mask made of skin which wasn’t immediately obvious. In the last act, the mask is pulled off and he just looks like a normal dude. And actually, he’s pretty hot as well!
Darren: Yeah, I can see that.
Dr. Lauren: The thing that got me, they revealed him as a normal guy, which we knew anyway but then by the time the last segment comes around he’s set up to be this big, horrible, Michael Myers-esque monster. The fact that previously he was just a normal guy running around – okay, he was an angry, pissed off guy – but it undermined him as the big, mysterious monster, like a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees type of villain you get in films like this. I thought it was a weird way of going about it.
Darren: I wouldn’t say the mask was a pointless thing apart from the fact he was trying to conceal himself but in that situation there was arguably almost no reason to do it.
Dr. Lauren: It might have been better if they’d kept him as the normal guy all the way through. When you see him making the mask it’s not really explained why he’s doing it and he spends a good proportion of the film wearing it before he takes it off and he’s just Normal Guy again. It was an odd approach.
Darren: I was expecting the backstory to lead to some event in which he was disfigured, which was why he was wearing the mask.
Dr. Lauren: I thought there was going to be some sort of horrific pig-brining accident.
Darren: And there is a hint that there’s going to be some sort of horrific pig-brining accident but it doesn’t play out that way. As a rug-pull it’s okay but it doesn’t sit with the other stuff that’s gone on with the mask.
Dr. Lauren: There’s not really a logical thread which runs through. It flits about.
Darren: There are plenty of torture porn and slasher icon checkboxes which they’ve ticked off without necessarily connecting them all up. It could have been a question of “It would be cool if we put this in” but…
Dr. Lauren: It doesn’t fit.
Darren: Yeah, it doesn’t always hang together. It definitely had potential but it didn’t do a great deal for me other than some moments are effectively nasty. It works on that level but I need something else in addition to it being vicious.
Dr. Lauren: Like I say, it wasn’t something I would rush back to. What would you score it out of five?
Darren: I would give it two, maybe two and a half.
Dr. Lauren: Is two a bit mean?
Darren: Yeah, it is. On reflection, two and a half is what I should score it. Looking back, I was right down the middle on this one.
Dr. Lauren: There’s decent things about it. The special effects are good, the performances aren’t bad. The sets are fine, it’s shot nicely. It just doesn’t quite hang together for me, it’s pretty middle of the road.
Darren: I guess if you stumbled across it on Horror Channel you’d give it a watch and think it was perfectly okay. It has effective moments but over ninety-odd minutes they may not be quite enough. And there’s no need for the last five minutes to be there at all. Sorry, we didn’t get to your score.
Dr. Lauren: I’m going to score it two and a half.
Dr. Lauren – 2.5 / 5
Darren – 2.5 / 5
See the trailer for The Dare here: https://youtu.be/ARUEERZI1HU
The Dare is on Digital Download 5 October and DVD 12 October from Lionsgate UK