Choices, whether they be taking a beating or giving that beating to someone else; choosing to be held underwater or to take whatever punishment a mystery card has in store. Those choices are what make up David Guy Levy’s WOULD YOU RATHER.
“In the wake of her parent’s death, Iris (Brittany Snow, PROM NIGHT, PITCH PERFECT), struggles to make ends meet while caring for her terminally ill younger brother. Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs (REANIMATOR, THE FRIGHTENERS), a seemingly philanthropic aristocrat, expresses an interest in helping them. When he invites her to an exclusive dinner party, she accepts. Also attending the dinner party are seven more desperate individuals. They soon find themselves trapped in Lambrick’s mansion and forced to play a sadistic game of Would You Rather, where the winner will be awarded untold amounts of money. As the game progresses, the dilemmas Iris and the other players face grow increasingly deadly.”
The plot of WOULD YOU RATHER could easily be mistaken for yet another entry into the SAW “torture porn” subgenre as it’s been affectionately called, but what sets the film apart from a lot of similar movies is the fact that while it is full of various ways of characters getting hurt and offed, it never ventures into doing it just for the hell of it. Every action in WOULD YOU RATHER brings forth a reaction and it relies on the choices of the characters to bring forth hurt to others instead of themselves. It’s a film about how far people will go to get what they want, whether it is money to pay for a mountain of debt and bone marrow operation, or simply to watch people turn on each other. It has a mood that switches from almost a CLUE-like feeling, to something that is far more vicious and nihilistic.
Brittany Snow really carries a lot of the burden in the film, and her character goes through hell and back trying to make it to the end of the sick game carried out by Jeffrey Combs, in one of his best and most maniacal roles in years. His face lights up when he offers a recovering alcoholic played by John Heard (HOME ALONE, THE SEVENTH SIGN) thousands of dollars to break his sobriety. It’s a lot of fun to watch Combs play the role with such fervor, yet calmly restrained for a good amount of it as well. The rest of the cast does a great job as well. Snow’s Iris badly wants to win the end prize for her brother, and that drive and desire is an easy one to root for, as opposed to the various other characters, Sasha Grey’s in particular. Grey does a good job playing pretty much the most out for themselves character of the group, and while everyone else struggles with the choices of hurting each other, it’s not even a thought to her, in fact there’s almost a small sense of satisfaction that she gets by choosing to hurt the other players.
The battle between what’s right and what’s the most self-serving of the choices culminates with each character slowly picking off each other one by one until there’s only one of them standing, and even then, it’s not the most optimistic film. There’s a real sense of pessimism to WOULD YOU RATHER, a certain “all bets off” attitude that leaves you wondering if anyone will really get out of the game alive, and if so, what will be left of themselves, physically and emotionally. It’s also a film that acts as a conversation starter, making you question what you would do if faced with the same situation, would you harm someone else if it meant that you wouldn’t be harmed? The characters in WOULD YOU RATHER certainly would.