The first few Saw films were dark horror films with some pretty twisted violent scenes, but they were cleverly done beyond the carnage. The Dare toys with grander ideas, but is largely content on being nearly unwatchable thanks to a needless focus on over the top torture gore.
Jay (Bart Edwards) is living a moderately decent life with his wife and two daughters. He’s a little too preoccupied with work, but otherwise is a good dude. Clearly he’s ticked someone off as a towering behemoth snatches him and chains him to a wall in an isolated chamber.
The two other prisoners Kat (Alexandra Evans) and Adam (Richard Short) are traumatized and warn Jay to follow the rules. Disobedience has consequences…for the others. Jay isn’t one to follow the rules and keeps putting them in jeopardy. A third prisoner tries to offer some advice, but his mouth is sewn shut.
Through flashbacks we watch demented butcher Credence (Richard Brake, Mandy), torture and emotionally destroy Dominic (Mitchell Norman), a boy he kidnapped. These sequences are disturbing as Credence stabs the boy, feeds him raw meat and showers him with pig’s blood. Brake plays these scenes out in loathsome fashion, fully committing to his character’s creepy intensity.
Credence’s claims of working the evil out of people comes off sadistic instead of some life-guiding, self improvement mantra. Basically the film plays out like the makings of a psycho serial killer.
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Director/co-writer Giles Anderson seems to take the challenge of going as gory as possible. Most of these scenes would benefit from some modicum of restraint to let the audience’s imagination fill in the gaps. Anderson’s compulsion to a no holds barred approach to gore leaves the film with no higher level to reach later in the film. Eventually, it’s hard for Anderson to keep turning the violence up to 10 and the stretches to 11 and 12 feel like overkill.
Anderson and co-writer Jonny Grant eventually attempt to explain the need for the extreme violence, but it’s not satisfying. Saying more would go too far into spoiler territory although the killer’s motives are clearly explained even if it’s not the most logical layout of information. The big twist is revealed at the midway point, but it doesn’t work because of a real stretch of a connection that needed more weight to significantly pay it off.
This hurts the performers as they have to play their characters one way until the big reveal. It’s too much to ask in this context that they can create a credible link with their characters. Additional information is gradually revealed, but it doesn’t help and if anything, muddies character motivation further.
Production values are excellent with clean, moody lighting and strong set design. The score is solid and doesn’t detract from the film either.
Maybe the most unfortunate aspect of the film is there’s actual potential here, but Anderson’s obsession with making The Dare such a bloody spectacle just makes it too much of a challenge to endure to get to the credits. Anderson has the chops to be one of the stronger modern day horror directions if he can manage to pull back even slightly on the excessive gore. The Dare could have used some restraint and a tighter script to be more than just a pale imitation of Saw and other more-gore horror films.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Photo Credit: Millennium Films