In 2004, James Wan and Leigh Whannell took the horror world by storm with their low-budget franchise-launching Saw. 16 years later, director/co-writer Giles Alderson and writer Johnny Grant bring us The Dare, a straight-to-DVD gorefest that feels like a pale imitation of the aforementioned film.
The story follows four people trapped in a basement as an imposing, masked figure puts them through overly violent torture, while we learn through flashbacks what drove this sadistic figure to become the way he is. The excessive grisly violence seems to be the filmmakers’ focus here, with any character development, narrative intrigue or effective twists being totally thrown by the wayside. Clearly attempting to model itself after the Saw franchise’s intelligent plots and effective shock endings, The Dare makes futile attempts to throw some mystery into the film but the only thing more prevalent than the blood and gore are the gaping plot holes.
Celebrated character actor Richard Brake (Game of Thrones) delivers the film’s only positive in the form of his chilling performance as the cruel Credence. His commanding work steals the film and certainly gives the film a certain level of quality that it wouldn’t come near to attaining without him. The rest of the cast are given nothing to do with their poorly undeveloped roles, really just acting as fodder for more and more scenes of over-the-top torture.
Although the special effects are generally well-executed and the film doesn’t look as cheap as most straight-to-DVD horror titles, the film leaves a lot to be desired. Richard Brake alone can’t elevate this cruel and cold-hearted bloodbath, a film that would’ve been much better with stronger characters to root for, a more polished screenplay and professional direction.
On the whole, The Dare is an uncomfortable and grisly horror film that lacks any personality or mystery, feeling more like a 90-minute exercise in soulless torture porn.