Would You Rather (2012)

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Desperate to help her sickly brother, a young woman accepts a dinner invitation to what seems to be easy money. As soon as she arrives, she realizes that playing "the game" is deadly for its losers. She and several others spend the night being terrorized in a game of "Would You Rather?" --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: May 29, 2015
Another week, another date night, and another movie that I went into completely blind. I'm actually enjoying this concept, watching movies with absolutely no build and no idea of what to expect. I tend to see movies after reading the synopsis, getting a feel for the general consensus of it, and maybe reading a review or two... but this, this is like going back to the old days of video stores, where you'd see an unknown movie with a cool cover and go "Yeah, I think I'll watch that tonight." Maybe some of you are already familiar with this bizarre concept, but being a writer for this site and having countless titles in my "to-watch" queue, I seem to have lost that luxury in recent years, and it's refreshing to get it back from time to time.

We begin with an introduction to Iris (Brittany Snow), a young lady with a problem: her brother is dying from leukemia, and he is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant to save his life. She eventually meets a man named Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs), a man of incredible wealth who makes her a proposition: he is running a game, tonight, and the winner will receive whatever it is that he or she desires. Should Iris win, she will receive all of the money that she needs to cover her brother's medical bills, and Lambrick will even set up an immediate transplant to avoid the waiting lists. One night, one game, and her brother's life could be saved - how could she say no?

She arrives at the house where the game is to be played, and there, she is ushered into the dining room by Bevans (Jonny Coyne), a butler and former special agent who will double as an enforcer for this game. Iris is also introduced to the other players, including Lucas (Enver Gjokaj), Travis (Charlie Hofheimer), Linda (June Squibb), Peter (Robb Wells), Cal (Eddie Steeples), Amy (Sasha Grey), and Conway (John Heard). It is at this point that Mr. Lambrick makes his entrance, and he lays out the rules of the game for everybody.

It's rather simple, really: each person will be asked "Would they rather do this or that", and they have thirty seconds to choose one of the options. To give you an idea as to what kind of choices they are given, one round's options include stabbing the person to your left in the thigh, or beating a certain person (who has already been repeatedly beaten) with a huge stick. After a choice is made and the deed is done, the next person gets the same choice. Should they refuse to choose, or refuse to carry out their choice, they will be instantly killed. Some of these options are deadly, and will take players out of the game on their own. The final person remaining in the game will receive whatever it is that he or she desires.

It's a simple concept, really, and the core idea has been done a few times before, but I really enjoyed the presentation of it here. Perhaps it was due to Jeffrey Combs as the host, who plays the asshole role to such perfection that you can't help but fall in love with him. There are times when you, the viewer, are supposed to be appalled by his actions or words, but you simply can't help but smile instead. The man can do no wrong in this movie. Of course, there's also the obvious draw of the movie, the choices to be made and watching them get carried out. I'll concede that some of them are a little tame: the electrocution one is good the first couple of times, but after you've seen it play out on all eight people, it starts to lose its charm. It's a good, light choice to begin the game with, but it does run a little long. After that, though, the movie never loses steam. Some of these choices are downright brutal, and fans of this sort of thing will find plenty to like here... for example, how about watching a man cut his own eyeball with a straight razor? Yeah, it definitely ramps up in intensity pretty quickly.

I also enjoyed the storyline surrounding the choices. Now, it's pretty obvious who the star of the movie is just moments into the running time, and thus, you've got a fairly good idea of who is going to win the game. Shit, did you notice how I singled out one person in my synopsis and just gave a brief mention to everybody else? Yeah, that's sort of how the movie operates as well. However, there is more to the story than just that, and there is one final twist thrown in that gives the film that extra little kick. Without diving into spoiler territory, it definitely played on the central theme of the film in a way that makes you think.

I think it's safe to say how I felt about Jeffrey Combs' performance after that other paragraph up there, so I won't rehash that. He was great, excellent job, you already got the idea. However, I will point to the other star of the movie, Brittany Snow, and mention that she was fairly adequate in the role. She was by no means perfect, and her performance won't win her any awards, but she carried the role well and did what she needed to do. The real underdog star of the movie, however, was Sasha Grey. She was simply another one of the players, with little more time in the spotlight than any of the others, but she definitely killed it every time she got a moment to shine. She plays the obligatory bitch of the movie, and she does it so well that it's hard not to love her. Watch her choice during the electrocution scene and just try not to laugh... and it's the actress that really makes it work better than it could have, not the script.

Overall, I'm going with a recommendation here. It's an idea that you may be familiar with, but the presentation makes it worth it. Some of the choices are memorable, and some are just downright sadistic. That alone would likely get a recommendation out of me, but the performance by Jeffrey Combs is what really sealed the deal on this one. He transforms a pretty good movie into a fantastic one, and is worth the price of admission alone. 8/10.
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