The Dare is the first feature-length fictional movie by Giles Alderson, whose previous credits revolve around his multiple roles as an actor and his debut in the director’s chair on a documentary about vampires (uhm…).
Written and directed by Giles Alderson, The Dare has just been released on DVD after a bit of a festival run in the UK and The Netherlands last December. Scrolling through IMDb, it became apparent to me that this movie wasn’t very well received, with people pointing out violence for the sake of it as its only element of note. With that in mind, I decided to give this movie a go as I, sometimes, just want to watch a brutal, violent horror movie with some entertainment value.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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The Dare – a story of violence and torture
In this movie we follow a family man, Jay Jackson (Bart Edwards), who’s kidnapped by a mysterious captor for no apparent reason. After being knocked out by the kidnapper, Jay wakes up in a dirty basement where he finds himself chained to a wall with other three prisoners. Jay and his three companions must engage in a twisted fight for survival to solve a puzzle from his past, in order to save his family’s future. What takes place in the basement, where the masked and muscly captor psychologically and physically abuses his prisoners, is intertwined with the apparently unrelated story of a boy being tortured by his stepfather (played by Richard Brake).
Like often happens with ultra-violent horror movies, The Dare has been accused on solely relying on torture porn (a term I find extremely inappropriate and overused). I don’t think that’s the case, though, as there’s a story here that’s based on a mystery and features some solid narrative elements. Giles Anderson just decided to tell this story by showing violent content and through gory special effects. I don’t see anything wrong with that, to be honest.
Practical effects and commitment
Within the context of The Dare, presentation equals practical effects. In other words, this movie doesn’t rely on great cinematography or particularly clever visuals to be effective: instead, the camera just stays on the characters as they’re being physically assaulted and battered. In this respect, the gory practical effects in this flick are just amazing: they’re all done practically, with very little reliance on CGI (which is, also, well implemented) and they’re quite disturbing to watch, without ever reaching the point of becoming overly disturbing. The set design plays its part in that, as every location feels dirty and realistic enough, although they don’t particularly stand out in terms of originality.
Every actor involved in the project is quite committed as well: despite the performances not being great, the physical acting required from every single person involved is really commendable. Richard Brake’s character, in particular, is seen doing some pretty hideous things to a young kid: those scenes are rather uncomfortable to watch and, even though I don’t think they should be censored, is quite debatable whether a child actor should be part of them or not. Regardless, Giles Alderson shows a lot of courage in shooting The Dare, and I think this should be at least acknowledge, if not praised.
Creative narrative structure, uncreative plot devices
As I mentioned before, The Dare not only has a plot, but it also tells the story through a well-thought-out narrative structure that’s non-linear and crafted in a way that builds up mystery and intrigue.
However, the inciting incident is really unbelievable and poorly written. Without giving any detail away, its main fault is that it makes characters’ decisions and reactions quite unbelievable and dumb. It’s, unfortunately, very hard to relate to the protagonists, as their decision-making process seems to be constantly going against logic and common sense. On the other hand, the villain becomes a much more sympathetic character by the end of the movie, although his motivations are pretty weak too.
“Youthful indiscretions” – conclusions
Despite being watchable and satisfying for those of you who like violent and gory flicks, The Dare is filled with mistakes that clearly come from the director’s lack of experience and budget limits. The sound-design, for instance, is very over-the-top, which makes the most violent scene less effective because they don’t sound realistic. The four people held captive are incredibly unlikeable: they’re just constantly rude to each other and behave in a way only movie characters do. Aside from Edwards’ and Brake’s acting, everyone else offers a very poor performance, which is probably due to the badly-written character and dialogue they had to work with. In general, The Dare is unevenly paced: first and third act go on for too long, whereas the second act (usually utilised to build characters and intensify the story) is too short. Finally, there’s an extra scene after the ending that feels completely out of place and detached from every other element of the movie.
Still, The Dare offers 90 minutes of twisted and gory entertainment as well as some genuinely built-up mystery elements. It’s a very flawed picture that could be improved in, basically, every department aside from special effects (which, I must reiterate, are fantastic in all their gruesomeness). I would recommend it if you like gory, violence-driven horror movies. Otherwise, you’re probably not going to like it.
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