GORE IN THE STORE
THE DARE ***
Directed by Giles Alderson.
Starring Bart Edwards, Richard Brake, Richard Short, Alexandra Evans, Daniel Schutzmann.
Horror/Thriller, USA/UK/Bulgaria, 96 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on Digital Download & DVD by Lionsgate Home Entertainment on 5th & 12th October 2020 respectively.
This is a bit more like it. In a horror scene that has gotten increasingly saturated with slow-burning, thought-provoking, message-heavy psychological thrillers and dramas comes a movie billed as the real deal. A twisted, gory and brutal horror film sure to please those hardcore fans aching for some gratuitous violence to get excited over. So does THE DARE deliver the goods?
Visually, yes it does as THE DARE is essentially a throwback to the torture porn (a term that appropriately sums up the genre and should be used without it being a negative) style of the mid-to-late 2000s but without the washed out, grainy, faux-1970s aesthetics that detracted or overshadowed several movies that didn’t need it. No, THE DARE presents its dead skin masks in full glorious clarity, and the effects are perfect for a film of this type. One scene that involves an eyeball will make you wince, and the way it is handled demonstrates an appropriate level of restraint and skill to make it more effective and icky, so if the makers of BECKY are watching then take note as that is how you do it without totally altering the tone of your movie.
But THE DARE isn’t all gore with no substance as there is a tale of childhood pranks coming back to haunt the perpetrators in adulthood. In all honesty, the story isn’t that strong and offers up very little that would surprise even casual horror movie audiences. Still, the acting, on the whole, is solid enough, even when the characters aren’t especially likeable, and quite frankly, when 3 FROM HELL actor Richard Brake’s name appears in the credits of a horror movie these days you know you’re going to get at least one memorable performance to come away with. He doesn’t disappoint here as Credence, the mad farmer who has become an urban legend amongst the local kids, and quite why Brake hasn’t been named as the next Freddy Krueger yet is a mystery as the man just oozes creepy menace in a way that makes any movie he is in feel just a tad more grubby and grimy, in a right way.
However, Credence is a character we only see in flashback as the setup – or the titular dare – is something that happened over twenty years ago. Now the victim of said dare is back for revenge against his tormentors by locking them up in a basement and forcing them to torture each other, so nothing we haven’t seen before from the glut of SAW and HOSTEL knock-offs that saturated the market during the 2000s, but here, with the violence being dished out between flashbacks, the audience doesn’t get bombarded with images of flayed skin and victims being forced-fed cockroaches. It also means that there are long(ish) periods where there is not a great deal of action happening, which is where the diehard gorehounds might get a bit put off as the splatter is sporadic during the first hour. When it does kick-off, though, and we are entirely in the clutches of the character dishing out the torture THE DARE doesn’t let up and, although it is hardly original and sticks very much to the slasher movie template to wrap up, it does feel somewhat refreshing to have a new horror movie that does just that and not try to force anything upon the viewer except for the blood and guts that we all signed up to see.
There are going to be those that dismiss THE DARE as mindless torture porn and, to a point, they are probably correct but given that so much of the horror genre has made way for more sophisticated or thought-provoking ideas in recent years the fact that it shamelessly just wants to horrify you with grotesque imagery and batter you over the head with its brutality is something to be applauded. The pacing is very wonky, and the plot paper-thin but Richard Brake, extreme gore and a more polished look than the movies it is emulating are enough to make THE DARE worth watching for some gloriously gratuitous bloodshed.