Sunday, February 10, 2013

Would You Rather (2012)

Directed by David Guy Levy
Rintime 94min. - Not Rated
2 Stars (out of 4)

"Would You Rather" is available on Amazon Instant and ITUNES.

Would you rather: A. Watch this film - or B. Cut off your pinky finger? Hmmm. Well it would certainly limit my guitar skills but it'd be over so much quicker. Just take the damn finger.

Ok, so it's not that bad.

"Would You Rather" caught my attention thanks to its odd ensemble cast. I have a crush on Brittany Snow who stars in the film. Also, she did an amazing job in the 2009 film "The Vicious Kind". Playing the lead villain is Jeffrey Combs, the memorable mad scientist from the "Re-Animator" franchise. Former porn star Sasha Grey makes yet another appearance in a mainstream film. You may remember her from Steven Soderbergh's experimental indie flick "The Girlfriend Experience". Eddie Steeples is a name you may not know, but he played the Crab Man on "My Name is Earl". If you watch a lot of TV then you'll recognize the face of Enver Gjokaj as he's had several guest roles and starred in Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse". Johnny Coyne played the sadistic warden on the short-lived series "Alcatraz". Oddly enough, I am both familiar with, and a fan of, this entire band of misfits.

There's one bonafide movie star in the film; John Heard. As a rule, when you see a big name like that in an indie horror film they will probably die early. This is no exception. I guess they couldn't afford him for the whole length.

Iris (Snow) has a critically ill brother who will die soon without a bone marrow transplant. Her doctor introduces her to the eccentrically rich philanthropist Shepard Lambrick (Combs) who makes her an offer. Come to his mansion and compete in a secret game. If she wins he'll make her wildly rich and secure a transplant for her brother. She hesitates, but her doctor ensures her it's a legit offer. He is a past winner and Lambrick made his dreams come true.

Iris arrives at the mansion and meets her fellow competitors. They gather around a table for a meal of ribeye steak and seared foie gras. Iris mentions she's a vegetarian. Lambrick offers her $10K to eat the meat. She does. Moments later he offers a recovering alcoholic $50K to drink scotch straight from a bottle. He does.

"Well that's not really a horror Dusty." you say. Well it gets worse imaginary critic heckler.

After the dinnertime shenanigans, the game officially begins. Two contestants are fitted with headgear that has been attached to a car battery. "Would you rather shock yourself? Or the guy sitting next to you?". The first contestant shocks himself. The next one shocks her neighbor. John Heard (Does his character need a name?) is not gonna take this crap anymore. He's leaving. Blam! John Heard is shot in the head. The producers smile knowing they saved money.

"Please don't zap me!" cries Brittany Snow.

The game continues with the stakes growing higher at each level. That's pretty much all you can say about it. It's a decent premise that doesn't offer much variety. By the end you feel like it's wore out completely.

I appreciated the film's willingness to fight cliches with logic. The ending is the best example but I don't want to spoil anything. Let's just say it isn't a moral triumph. There's also a subplot where the doctor that introduced Iris to Lambrick decides to rescue her. Instead of him becoming a hero he gets dispatched with a slug to the head.

On a casting note, Jeffrey Combs is just terrible in his role. I love "Re-Animator" and I thought Combs did a good job as Edgar Allen Poe in the Masters of Horror episode "Black Cat", but he's not cut out for this character. Honestly, I would have been much happier if John Heard and Jeffrey Combs switched roles. The rest of the cast does a good job with what they had to work with. Which wasn't much.

The film isn't great. It's barely good. It is at least watchable, thanks in no small part to Sasha Grey and Brittany Snow.

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