Would You Rather
Netflix Streaming | Amazon Instant Video
Directed by David Guy Levy
Written by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen
Starring Brittany Snow, June Squibb, Jeffrey Combs, Jonny Coyne, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Enver Gjokaj, Sasha Grey, John Heard, Charlie Hofheimer, Robin Lord Taylor, Eddie Steeples, Robb Wells.
IFC Films | Periscope Entertainment
Rated R | 93 Minutes
Original Release Date: October 14th, 2012
The best places to find horror movies are on streaming sites. Most of the horror that ends up in theatres are money grabs that rely totally on jump scares and cheap parlor tricks… Iâ€™m talking movies like Ouija, Annabelle, and the dreadful looking, upcoming Sinister 2. But horror fans can rely on sites like Netflix to update regularly, and breathe some fresh air into otherwise stale genres. After nearly twenty minutes of â€œspin the queueâ€ last night, I settled on Would You Rather. The filmâ€™s cast struck me right away as itâ€™s two featured stars were Brittany Snow (great in Hairspray and the Pitch Perfect films) and Dr. Herbert West himself, horror veteran Jeffrey Combs. The plot seemed utterly simple: 8 people under desperate financial stress are invited to a dinner party hosted by an eccentric millionaire. Together, theyâ€™ll play a game, and the winner will be taken care of. What could possibly go wrong?
I value simplicity. Give me a single room like this, or a phone booth in…. Phone Booth, or the plane in the underrated Wes Craven film Red Eye, and it allows for the tension to feel real and palpable. Crowding everyone together in a single space creates a claustrophobic environment, which makes things scary without anything scary happening. We quickly realize in this film from writer Steffen Schlachtenhaufen and director David Guy Levy, that Combsâ€™ Shepard Lambrick and his â€œLambrick Societyâ€ have ulterior motives than sheer philanthropy in this game of â€œwould you rather.â€ For instance, round one is fitting you and the person next to you with electric shock helmets, and a button to either shock you or them. The guests include Snowâ€™s Iris who is in debt from her parents death and brotherâ€™s cancer treatments (he needs a bone-marrow transplant). Veteran TV stars Enver Gjokaj and Eddie Steeples play Lucas and Cal respectively. They want to play nice and offer to take painful punishments, rather than inflict pain on strangers. June Squibb (Oscar nominee in Nebraska) plays wheelchair bound Linda. Veteran character actor John Heard has a seat, as does gambler Peter (Robb Wells), and loudmouth Travis (Charlie Hofheimer). The last guest and the most shockingly great performance is former pornstar Sasha Greyâ€™s turn as the dark and mysterious Amy, who has no problem shocking, stabbing, and working her way through the table, to get the prize at the end.
All the while Combs and crazy son Julian (Gothamâ€™s Robin Lord Taylor) watch on eagerly as contestants have to make decisions in seconds to take or inflict pain; sometimes both. If they donâ€™t want to answer or show resistance, his guards led by Bevans (Jonny Coyne) willâ€¦ well letâ€™s just say youâ€™ll do what they ask or else. Combs is one of my favorite quirky horror actors, and while he never goes over the top insane like in Re-Animator or The Frighteners, he certainly adds a level of horrific glee. But the film worked best for me because of the ethical struggle at the table. Most of the guests are genuinely good people, who by nature donâ€™t want to inflict pain on others. Some are more quick to grasp the depraved situation theyâ€™re in and act accordingly. I kept talking to myself during it, trying to play along; could I stab an old lady in the leg? Would I beat an already bloody guy with a cane? Can I hold my breath for two minutes underwaterâ€¦ or should I choose door number 1? How much do I need the money? On that cerebral level, Would You Rather worked great. Thereâ€™s also some truly horrific things going on at this table. Like in the original Saw, much of the gore and violence is suggested and done off camera. Again this worked for me. A lesser filmmaker could made this a torture porn film.
David Guy Levy had opportunities to spoil his movie and doesnâ€™t. We get to know very little about the characters in the game except for Iris. He doesnâ€™t overdo the gore and violence even though there were at least two scenes that made me squirm. He allows the audience to sit at the table and play. He doesnâ€™t compromise or make easy choices; the ending for instance I felt was perfect. That makes for a truly effective horror film. I kept thinking of this as a horror version of 12 Angry Men; in fact I can imagine it as a stage play. Would You Rather is currently streaming on Netflix, free with paid monthly subscription, and Amazon Instant Video for $14.99.