In order to afford a bone marrow transplant for her ailing brother (Logan Miller, The Bling Ring), young, unemployed Iris (Brittany Snow, Pitch Perfect) accepts an exclusive invitation to a dinner party hosted by businessman Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs, the Re-Animator trilogy), at which his foundation will award a sizable sum of money to one of the eight guests.
The catch? It’s a biggie: Unbeknownst to Iris and her fellow diners (who include porn star Sasha Grey, the movie’s weak link), they’ll be forced — by timer and by gunpoint — to make decisions on a series of either/or dilemmas, such as which guest should receive an electric shock or be stabbed in the leg. Suffice to say, not everyone is going to live to see dessert.
Viewers may wonder the point of such a gruesome exercise, but “torture porn,” this is really not. While director David Guy Levy indeed engages in a couple of gross-outs, he also demonstrates remarkable restraint for this sort of thing. He and screenwriter Steffen Schlachtenhaufen seem more interested in exploring the psychological aspects of their setup: the famous Milgram experiment, writ large.
In direct opposition to most contemporary horror films, which distance themselves from viewers, Would You Rather puts the emphasis on the middle word of its title: Well, what would you do in the same situation? The final third contains two scenarios so absolutely harrowing (and virtually bloodless, I might add), that I don’t even want to think about putting myself in the proverbial shoes.
Snow doesn’t have to do much beyond show up in order to garner audience sympathy; she’s more effective here than her last brush with horror, headlining the 2008 remake of Prom Night (which was more of a thriller, anyway). No surprise, either, is how much fun Combs is, as the role of “mustachioed cad” is one of his specialties. His loony take on Lambrick is evident from his first scene, in which he eats pistachios on a doctor’s couch and doesn’t give a damn about what he does with the shells. Rich people.
I had the ending guessed way before it arrived, but that’s hardly reason to knock Would You Rather around. Despite taking place in mostly a single location, it’s just too clever and too well-made. —Rod Lott
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