Truth Or Dare: A Critical Madness, believe it or not, is the product of a teenager’s imagination. Like Sam Raimi, director Tim Ritter was shooting horror flicks at a very young age. The genesis of Truth or Dare started during the production of the horror anthology Twisted Illusions, which he co-directed and wrote with B-movie icon Joel D. Wynkoop. One of the seven segments of the film featured a story about Mike Strauber – originally played by Wynkoop – who journeys into the woods with an attractive woman, only to wind up playing a sadistic game of truth or dare and finding out that his companion is a figment of his imagination. The following year, Ritter decided to expand it into a full-length feature, and later a franchise.
Truth Or Dare stars John Brace as Mike Strauber, who seems to have it all: a great job, an attractive wife, a gold Firebird, and 80’s synth soundtrack that seems to follow him around EVERYWHERE. After a hard day at the office, Mike comes home and finds his wife mid-coitus with his best friend, Jerry. Hurt and confused, he drives to the beach and thinks back on past experiences with his wife, realizing that she’s been trying to break things off for quite a while. After nixing the idea of killing himself, he picks up an attractive hitchhiker and goes off to the woods for the night because, well, I guess he really wanted an STD.
After mutilating his body and ripping out his tongue during a game of truth or dare with the blonde vixen, he realizes she’s just a figment of his imagination. Hearing the screams, a park ranger finds the campsite and gets him some medical attention. Immediately following that, some scrolling text along the bottom of the screen explains that it’s 13 months later, and Mike is in an asylum. Released because of overcrowding, Mike immediately seeks out his adulterous wife and kills her boyfriend, only to be injured and sent back to the asylum. The rest of the film is him continually escaping the law and killing everyone he crossed paths with on the way to his wife’s house.
I think everyone’s personal enjoyment of the film is really based on how much leeway you want to give an 18-year-old writer/director. The production itself was rocky, with investors realizing how young Ritter was during production and trying to steal the movie away from him. Regardless, what resulted is a complete and total mess; a film that makes little sense from beginning to end and is plain old boring. I’m still scratching my head as to why an asylum would have a welding shop on its premise, let alone allow a proven psychopath to use it during his recreation time. In the shop, he constructs a featureless mask to wear, which looks like a bronzed pancake with eye slits in it. Later in the film, you can’t help but laugh when Mike’s mask caves in when he’s breathing heavy. Worst. Metal. Ever.
Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness is nothing short of awful and unenjoyable, with its only saving grace being a chainsaw death scene. I think the topic of bureaucracy in institutional systems was a fairly ambitious topic for an 18-year old to address in a film, so it’s really a shame that the bad acting, pointless random characters, meandering pace, and illogical scenarios really ruin what could have otherwise been a decent commentary on Reagan’s budget allocation policies. Not even a cameo by A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys – all 10 seconds of it – can save Truth or Dare from being a total waste of time.
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