Stop me if you’ve heard this one before … four strangers wake up chained and imprisoned in a grimy basement? A mysterious captor subjects the groups to a series of increasingly cringeworthy tortures? No, it’s not 2007. The Dare is just Netflix’s latest addition to it’s horror library. A throwback ‘Torture Porn‘ movie, The Dare, which has more than just a bit of a Saw vibe, had a small 2019 release. Now it’s making the rounds on streaming platforms where it will have to distinguish itself from other forgettable and similar retreats like Hacksaw and The Basement.
Busy family man, Jay, is looking forward to finally having a night at home with his wife and daughters. But when an unseen figure beaks into his house, Jay is knocked unconscious and wakes up some time later chained to a wall in a darkly-lit basement. And he’s not alone. Three other strangers are imprisoned with him. Outside the door, their captor, a hulking, masked man, waits to subject his prisoners to unimaginable tortures. Soon Jay realizes that he knows his fellow prisoners from his childhood. Now the prisoners must figure out their past link to the man imprisoning them before it’s too late.
The Dare Substitutes Worn-Out Nastiness for Tension and Scares
The Dare is a throwback to the days when the Saw franchise was still churning out sequels and knock-off’s like I Know Who Killed Me, Turistas, and Captivity could still release in theaters. But like other ‘late-to-the-party’ retreads, The Dare doesn’t bring anything new to the table. While Spiral: From The Book of Saw at least offered a police procedural twist and Meander mixed ‘Torture Porn’ with sci-fi elements, The Dare is about as unimaginative as it gets. Bits of Stevan Mena’s Malevolence are thrown in with the basic slasher trope of the ‘tragic past accident’. Writer and director Giles Alderson tries to mix things up by setting his story in two different timelines. But most viewers will figure out the threadbare story pretty fast. Similar to its story, Alderson’s dialogue also feels clumsy.
…The Dare doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
Yet even with a derivative story, The Dare could have been watchable like, say, Would You Rather, another late Netflix ‘Torture Porn’ entry. Unfortunately, Alderson’s screenplay – co-written with Johnny Grant – isn’t the only part of the movie that’s unimaginative. In addition to its ‘four strangers trapped in a room together’ set-up, everything about The Dare’s aesthetics feels borrowed. In place of genuine scares or tension, The Dare simply relies on increasingly cruel and gross scenes that feel more nasty than shocking. Alderson’s set-up and execution are flat. And with a runtime that exceeds 90 minutes, The Dare really overextends itself.
The Dare Mostly Wastes an Always Game Richard Brake
None of The Dare’s protagonists stand our for better or worse. As lead family man, ‘Jay Jackson’, Bart Edwards actually comes off well inspiring a bit of sympathy for the character. He gives off an ‘everyman’ feel that works and, quite frankly, helps given the movie’s lack of substance. Both Alexandra Evans and Richard Short are forgettable as the other ‘prisoners’, which is no fault of their own. What really hurts The Dare is it’s lack of a compelling antagonist. Even with a derivative story and lackluster approach to the material, a frightening killer could have added some intensity. Instead, The Dare’s killer is a mostly silent, hulking mass that never stands out. Things only get worse when the mask comes off as Robert Masser comes more wooden than anything else.
…The Dare’s killer is a mostly silent, hulking mass that never stands out.
The Dare does have two – and only two – things going for it – Richard Brake (31, Mandy) and Mario Grigorov’s score. A distinctive-looking character actor, Brake was the best part of Rob Zombie’s messy clown-inspired horror outing, 31. And The Dare gives him bit more to do. Though his flashback scenes are familiar and Alderson and Grant’s screenplay offers him little character, Brake is a charismatic performer who plays ‘menacing’ very differently. What could have easily been a one-note character feels a little more layered in Brake’s hands. And Grigorov’s score gives the movie far more personality than it earns. Yes, it’s another 80s-infused horror synth score, but it’s done well.
The Dare Boring, Ugly Retread of Aught’s Torture Porn
It you watched horror movies in the 2000’s, you’ve seen this one. No, there’s nothing wrong with gritty, intense ‘Torture Porn’ movies. But The Dare is an ugly movie simply for the sake of being ugly. Expect nothing original to emerge over its 90 minutes or so. And don’t expect any scares or much in the way of tension. In addition to being a pretty mean-spirited movie, The Dare is also dull. Throw in some middle-of-the-road performances and an underwhelming killer and The Dare is a Netflix horror addition you can skip.