Movie Review: Would You Rather (2013, Dir. David Guy Levy)

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I was caught immediately by the title of this film, as ‘would you rather’ is a game I’ve played frequently with my friends. We pose questions as stupid as “Would you rather eat a stick or swallow a rock?” and as conflicting and life-altering as “Would you rather fart every time you smiled or puke every time you laughed?” So the idea of a group of people playing this precise game, except having to actually carry out their selected rather was pretty intriguing.

An eccentric millionaire (Jeffrey Combs) preys on a desperate young woman (Brittany Snow), offering her a chance to cure her sick brother by merely participating in an unspecified game. After some hesitation, she agrees to attend the dinner party at which this game will occur. When she arrives, she meets a series of other individuals, all of whom seem to have some untold motivation for being there. But when the game starts, it becomes clear very quickly that their host is not the philanthropist he has painted himself as, but someone much more sinister.

I don’t think I need to say anymore about what happens there. I mean, you get it at this point, the game is ‘would you rather’.

Although the concept of forcing a group of people to participate in a “game” in which they have to make moral decisions about how far they will go for what they most desire is not a unique one, it’s one I tend to always find appealing as long as it’s done right. Like, the Saw films don’t fall into that category, as the reward is you just get to keep living. There’s no unrelated motivation, it’s just one’s willingness to continue being, and that’s just dick of Jigsaw. But having to make a choice for money, which will get you something you quite badly need, like medicine, is fascinating to me.

Would You Rather doesn’t really break the mold, but it is suspenseful, and it is brutal. It works well within its budget, which is quite visibly limited. It looks good, the cast is extremely strong, and it manages to get a little creative here and there. Also, porn star Sasha Grey is in it. I love that she is acting in so many non-porn films now, she’s really good at it.

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The movie is really confined to the dinner party, which I personally appreciated a lot. An issue I frequently have with films of this ilk is that they introduce side plots and other characters, like a cop, a relative, or friend, with a hunch that something bad is going down. This breaks up the story, trying to tie the main conflict of the story into the outside world in a way that is usually unrealistic and distracting. Would You Rather appears as if it will fall into this trap in the first act, but the quick resolution of the unneeded side plot had me grinning. There are some risky twists here and there, and even when they seemed over the top, I was pretty thrilled by them.

Despite an unrealistic moment of action here and there, the progression of the game and the fates of each character is captivating. My attention never wandered. The story didn’t need to leave the room, that’s where the suspense was building. The audience wants to be right there, feeling the tension, and this film delivers. Some of the choices the characters have to make seem simple, but the further they go, the more fucked up it gets. It’s kind of ridiculously sadistic in the end, as is expected, but if you like that kind of thing, then it’s a great time.

Would You Rather is being released in theaters and on VOD tomorrow, February 8th, by IFC Films. I have a good feeling this one will be fun to see in a theater, so if it’s screening anywhere near you, I recommend it.

And, in case you were wondering, I’d rather eat a stick.

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