Would You Rather is probably the second-worst movie in the Saw franchise. It’s not quite Saw 3D bad, but it definitely comes close.
(Spoilers Ahead, so I guess if you don’t want this cinematic masterpiece spoiled, go watch it yourself. After all, it’s just 93 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back)
Would You Rather, as the title implies, is based off of that party game you can play with friends (at least I’m assuming you can, I’d have no way of knowing). Also I think it’s like an app now? Anyway, the movie showcases a deadly variation of the game in which some rich guy makes struggling people kill each other for his entertainment. Something something social commentary.
So the movie revolves around this woman named Iris whose brother,
Ralley Raleigh, has the bone cancer (he’s got it real bad). His condition, combined with their parents’ death (which is mentioned maybe once) has left them struggling financially. However, hope arrives, in the form of Shep Lambrick, who creepily sits in her brother’s doctor’s office as she comes in.
Shep offers Iris the chance to get some money for her brother’s treatment by participating in a competition. Apparently Raleigh’s oncologist won this game sometime in the past, and it helped him get back on his feet. She accepts, and is Ubered to Shep’s mansion.
At the house, Iris is greeted by Shep’s butler 🅱evans, who leads her into a lounge area where all the guests are waiting. Iris meets Cal and Lucas, who tell her who everyone else at the dinner is (because I guess she has bad social skills and can’t just talk to them). They’re lead into the dining room, where they’re joined by Shep’s dick son, Julian.
After being served food, Shep calls out one of the guests for not drinking the wine. After the man explains how he used to be an alcoholic, Shep berates him relentlessly in a ten minute diatribe about how he’s stupid and poor and made bad choices or something. He then offers him fifty thousand dollars to either drink a glass of wine, or a decanter of scotch. The man refuses, but eventually agrees to take the decanter. So he goes from not having drunk any alcohol, to downing an entire bottle of hard liquor. Huh.
Before the game begins, Shep gives everyone a chance to leave but no one does because whatever.
The rest of the movie is pretty much all this “game,” so I’ll just summarize each round.
Round 1: Two people are strapped to a zap machine and one of them chooses whether to zap themselves or the other person. Ex-ex-alcoholic man decides to leave but 🅱evans pops him because he’s straight savage, and everyone wisens up and stops complaining. Nothing else really happens except Amy kind of acts like a bitch.
After round 1, Travis reminds everyone that he’s a veteran and threatens to beat Julian’s ass. Julian sarcastically thanks him for his service, and then starts yelling at everyone for being poor (like father, like son, I guess). He then sort of threatens Travis.
Round 2: People get to choose whether to stab someone with an icepick or have Travis get whipped with a sjambok. Lucas reminds everyone that the human leg contains an artery (who knew?) so most of them choose the sjambok cause it’s less dangerous. Travis is whipped to death (what a Travisty!), and both old white lady and Iris get stabbed.
Lucas and Cal try and stage a revolt against the guards. Amy kind of just sits there, Lucas and the gambler get restrained, and Cal gets shot. Iris, however, does manage to escape, so Shep sends 🅱evans and Julian after her. Julian finds her in the basement and tries to rape her? But she stabs him with the icepick. The doctor shows up at the house and tries to rescue Iris, but summarily gets capped by 🅱evans, making his entire character pretty much useless.
Round 3: The remaining players are forced to choose between being held underwater for 2 minutes or picking something in an envelope. Fat man gets his hand blown off, has a heart attack, and dies. Lucas gets his eye cut open. Iris chooses the water and survives. Finally, it comes around to Amy, who doesn’t want to be held underwater because, according to Shep, her husband drowned her daughter or something (this is brought up only once). She chooses the envelope, but surprise! She still gets held underwater but for longer! Anyway, she dies and the round ends.
Round 4: The remaining players (Iris and Lucas) flip a coin. Whoever wins gets to choose between shooting the other person and getting money, or both of them walking away with nothing. Iris wins, and as Lucas is explaining his life story, she shoots him. Shep gives her a bag of money and starts arranging a bone transplant for her brother.
Iris gets back to her house and it’s broad daylight because Shep lives two states over, apparently. She looks into her brother’s room, but it seems like he’s sleeping so she goes to wash the blood off of her (worth noting that she was stabbed in the chest earlier on, but there’s no sign of the wound anywhere). She goes back into her brother’s room, but when she turns him over, it’s revealed that he committed suicide by OD’ing on pills. O, what horrid fate! The gods hath reclaimed thy life too soon, young Raleigh! Wait, doesn’t that make this entire movie pointle-
This movie has a lot of characters, and none of them matter, so I’m just going to rank them.
- 🅱evans. 🅱evans is an absolutely ridiculous character and I love him for it. His only role in this movie is to stand around wearing a tuxedo and threaten people with guns. The actor himself isn’t even particularly menacing, and he bears a stark resemblance to Dr. Eggman (sans moustache), but the character is amazing. He’s kind of like Butler from the Artemis Fowl series, but not threatening or competent.
- Travis. I’d like to think that Travis was the martyr that died to allow the second half of this movie to be produced. He doesn’t really do much other than get sjamboked, but oh does he get sjamboked. He’s also an army veteran and puts his life on the line for the parts of the game in which he’s alive, so yay for morally upstanding characters.
- Cal/Lucas. These two are the “nice guys” of the group, and try and get everyone through the game. Halfway through, they stage a mini-revolt, but that gets shut down pretty quick when 🅱evans hits the scene. Neither character really does much, and both end up getting shot.
- Amy. Amy’s the one ”hateable” character in this movie that’s actually reasonable, which is hilarious given that she’s portrayed by “adult film” star Sasha Grey. She’s a bad person who doesn’t really care about anyone else, but her logic is consistent and she exits the movie relatively gracefully. So hats off to you, Sasha, really killed the delivery on those 15 lines you had.
- Iris. Fitting that her name is “Siri” backwards, because she may as well have been a robot (or a literal iPhone). She’s supposedly the main character of the movie, but I honestly have nothing to say about her. She’s kind of complex, I guess? I mean this movie virtue signals her when we see her taking care of her brother (the one with the cancer), and later she does some unethical shit, so she’s m u l t i d i m e n s i o n a l. The actress who portrayed her didn’t even do that bad a job, it’s just that she does so little during the main part of the movie that I don’t feel like I got enough screen time to talk about her. By the end, I felt more connected to 🅱evans.
- Old white lady/Fat white guy/Drunk white guy. These characters exist to die. That’s basically it. People at the party kind of care about “Linda.” The other two just drop though. But hey, more blood for the blood god.
- Black doctor man (or as my friend Scott called him, “Walmart John Boyega”). Despite having the most credentials, this is probably the stupidest person in the entire film. After figuring out that maybe he shouldn’t have referred the sister of one of his patients to die, he decides to take matters into his own hands. He grabs a six shooter and drives over to Casa Lambrick, where he attempts to infiltrate the house and save ‘Ris. Why he doesn’t just call the police on them is never explained. I understand that he himself had previously participated in the game, and had probably killed people in the process, but he was clearly under duress in that context. Furthermore, having been to Lambrick’s house, he should’ve been aware of the battalion of armed guards patrolling the place. Even if he would have had to face legal ramifications for taking hella bribes and handing out ‘scrips for the world’s lamest themed dinner party, how would that not have been preferable to risking his own life? Speaking of which, the second he actually does infiltrate the house, he just gets shot and dies, rendering his ten minutes of screentime irrelevant. (This is only the third worst character in the movie, by the way).
- Julian Lambrick. I understand that this character is supposed to be unlikable, but I don’t give the movie credit for making me not like him. Julian is a shitty person, but unlike good shitty characters, he doesn’t have any reason to be. Let me compare him to another asshole: Joffrey Baratheon (they kind of even look similar). Joffrey is an inbred teenager surrounded by violence, raised by a crazy person who wants him to take over as the leader of an entire continent who sits on a sword-throne. He’s a terrible person, sure, but at least his character makes sense. Everything about who he is and what he does is reasonable given his situation, which makes him at least somewhat compelling. Julian is just a… disagreeable person. He yells at people, tries to get under their skin, goads a guy into assaulting him so he can get him whipped, and tries to rape someone. There’s no development in his character, or any reason for him to be this way, he just kind of is. Maybe he too is inbred. Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past Shep to bang his sister. Speaking of…
- Shep Lambrick. Shepatitis C is by far the most baffling character I have ever seen in a movie. Rarely do I feel as if the writer, the director, and the actor all had differing opinions on what a character should be like. Mr. Lamedick (ROASTED) exists as an amalgamation of many different tropey caricatures, resulting in this perplexing individual who’s kind of just a dick. As far as he’s written, he’s a very shallow character who yells at poor people and seems to delight in them killing each other off. We even get scenes of him being an inconsiderate prick, like this one:
of him leaving peanut shells on a couch (what if someone with a peanut allergy sat on that couch, Shep? You inconsiderate monster). However, the way the actor, Jeffrey Combs, portrays him, it seemed like he had some kind of disability. Everything Shep says is overemphasized, he delivers lines incredibly slowly, and the tone and inflection of his voice seem to change at random. Not only this, but he constantly has this stupid squinting expression, and he always moves his eyebrows in a weird way, so that it almost feels like you’re watching someone deliberately overact like a “villain.” By the end of the movie, I had no clue as to his motivations, his personality, or his desires.
The dialogue in this movie is bad for two reasons: a) The writing is bad, and b) The delivery is bad. Now you might be wondering what else a movie could do wrong in this category, and to that I would say…
The dialogue is pretty awful throughout the whole thing, but there are three specific scenes that I really want to focus on.
Scene 1: The dinner party before the “game” starts. Here’s basically what happens: dinner is served, and it consists of an appetizing assortment of Steak, foie gras, and mashed potatoes (why no Shepard’s pie?). Anyway, let’s get to the real meat of this scene (ba dum-tiss). After everyone receives their food, Iris takes this as her opportunity to announce that she is um, in fact, a vegetarian. Shep curiously tells her that they have no other food in the kitchen. Ignoring the logic of a mansion with at least 10 servants not having more than one meal’s worth of food, this is where we first get a glimpse of how “evil” and “twisted” Shep is. He offers Iris some money to eat the meat. When she refuses, he offers her more money. Now, this is an interesting set-up for a scene, because it shows how money can corrupt people’s morals, which is maybe the point of this movie (I still haven’t figured that out).
Now, rather than say something reasonable like:
“Sorry Sheppy, but as a person who’s morally opposed to the consumption of meat for ethical/ideological/environmental reasons, I can’t possibly bring myself to eat this food. Furthermore, having not eaten meat since I was a young child, it’s possible that the corresponding lack of necessary enzymes in my body responsible for actually breaking the meat down would cause me to fall ill were I to consume this.”
Iris just says, “I literally can’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t.” God she’s so witty.
Shep uses this as a segway to deliver some ideological ramblings about the importance of choice, and sneak disses everyone at the dinner by saying that they’ve all made bad decisions or something which led to them being there. He then makes the infuriatingly stupid point that all the attendees are there “begging his family for money.” Except no, Shep, they aren’t, because YOU INVITED THEM. He literally went to every single one of them personally and asked for their participation, going so far as to fly Cal out from Seattle just to be there. But nope, they’re all there on their knees begging for his money, because poor people are leeches, I guess. Anyway, nothing Shep says in this scene makes any sense, and his speech feels simultaneously preachy and obnoxious.
Shep’s son, Julian, begins to berate the dinner guests. Travis, being a cool dude, tells him to shut up and threatens to punch him (as cool people do). At this point, Julian seems to borrow some inspiration from his dad, because he too has his own yell-speech about how everyone is begging him for money and how they’re all beneath him. He then starts calling everyone pigs. I specifically noted the use of “pig” as an insult because a) none of the people there were police officers (come on, Julian), and b) how absolutely ridiculous it sounded in context. I mean, if someone called me a pig, I’d probably just start laughing, but Julian delivers it with such vitriol and anger that it almost sounded convincing. Anyway, the only point of this scene was to make Trav look like a badass before his big sjamboking montage, and to make Julian look like an asshole. 10/10 character development.
In the third round, the gambler (“Peter,” I think) is given the choice to either sjambok Travis or stab the old lady in the leg with an icepick. Now, at this point, Travis has been sjamboked 9 times, and is laying on the table bleeding to death, whereas the old lady is just sitting there looking confused. Here’s the kicker (or lack thereof): Linda is paralyzed from the waist down. She has no sensation in her legs. So to review: we can either whip the man who’s already volunteered to get 9 lashes and is very close to being dead, or stab the lady who won’t be able to feel it, and has to this point sustained no injury. Even in the situation that stabbing her would cause her to lose the leg, it doesn’t even matter, because she can’t use it anyway. We’re all clear on what the obvious choice is right?
NOPE. Everyone starts freaking out about how he can’t stab her, because she’s old, or something. Travis is bleeding out right next to y’all dumb dumbs, you see that right? Anyway, Pete comes to the same conclusion that I did, and decides that stabbing Linda is the better choice. Now, keep in mind that, in the context of the movie, Peter is stabbing her because it’s the lesser of two evils, but he’s doing it regretfully (at least I think this is the case).
Everything he says in this scene is really… weird. It almost sounds like he wants to stab her? He actually leans into her and says something along the lines of, “I’m sorry about this Linda, but it has to be done. You see that right? You see that Linda? I need to do this. I’M DOING THIS FOR US.” Not to mention, delivers this in such a cold, emotionless way that he actually sounds like a psychopath. But his character hadn’t displayed any psychopathic tendencies up to that point. When did that character development happen? Did I miss like an hour of the movie? Eh, who cares.
This movie did have a consistent tone, just not the one it probably wanted. Given many of the details in this movie, it’s clear that they were going for kind of an exciting, suspenseful feeling. Unfortunately, the movie lacked tension in the “build-up” scenes, and didn’t have any suspense later on. It seemed to be trying to emulate the tone of a murder mystery (something like And Then There Were None) but it didn’t have the vital element of uncertainty to support that. There was never any question as to what was going to happen or who the threat was. By showing off Shep as the evil crazy guy who’s orchestrating all of these deaths, it removes any ability to create suspense and replaces it with predictable gore.
In short, this movie is too boring to be scary, too scary to be subtle, and too subtle to be exciting.
This movie is actually shot well, which is probably the best thing I can say about it. Everything looks clean, the shots are mostly well-framed, and there were even a few times that I went “oh that looks pretty nice.” It makes a minimal use of cuts, especially during the more action-packed scenes, which is actually a great change of pace compared to movies in similar genres. Granted, this might be due to the studio only actually owning two cameras, but it’s still better than the Saw technique, in which scenes would have used 35 cuts and some bullshit spin-cam effect.
The movie is dimly, but adequately lit, save for the last scene, which is shot during the day for some reason. Most scenes employ a dark, brown-ish color palette, and there’s this weird blue filter that seems to be applied to everything.
The effects in this film are pretty lame, which is very obviously due to their limited budget. The thing about making movies with Gore is… you’ll probably have to work with Johnny Depp.
Lame jokes aside (you’d probably have to skip this whole review then), Would You Rather uses some pretty obvious tricks to try and mask the fact that they couldn’t actually do these effects well. For instance, when the fat guy gets his hand blown off, they cover it in duct tape in the preceding scene, so that in the after-shot, we see a pretty minimal amount of blood.
During the scene where Lucas’ eye gets cut, the camera cuts away rather than trying to show the gore. In the two drowning scenes, while we do get an upward shot of the actress’ faces, clearly submerged in water, most of the shots are external angles which show 🅱evans holding them incredibly shallowly over the barrels (probably not a particularly hard shoot for Sasha). I’m not saying I wanted to see someone get their eye cut open, but when the promotional material for your movie includes this poster:
You kinda expect a little more? Whatever.
The sound design in this movie is passable, although it’s mainly just stock sound effects that match up with whatever’s happening in the scene. During the zap machine parts we hear pretty generic electrical noises, the bomb makes a big boom, and all the guns sound like guns. Nothing crazy original, although I thought the use of “metallic clang” was a bold cinematic choice by the director:
As far as this movie’s score, I had two main problems with it. The first is the complete inability to choose even decent incidental music during certain scenes. For example, during the chase scene, where Iris is running away from 🅱evans, everything is shot to appear very tense. There’s little lighting, frequent cuts between her face and 🅱evans’, and it’s clear the director intended it to be really spooky. Unfortunately, they dub over some shitty action music, which doesn’t fit the tone at all, and detracts from the whole atmosphere.
Similarly, during the ending scene, when Iris discovers her brother’s corpse, there’s this weird rock music that starts playing as the credits roll, which doesn’t make sense given that the scene is sad. Is this supposed to be ironic? Does the movie know that it’s bad?
The other thing I want to talk about with the score is actually its absence. See, many movies make the mistake of not realizing that tension can be created more easily from silence than in the presence of musical accompaniment. This is why so often when “tense” scenes are dubbed over with any kind of music, it’s often to their detriment, and takes away a lot of the suspense.
The director clearly knew about this, as in many scenes, such as when Iris arrives at the house, there is no music. Unfortunately, what the director didn’t realize, is that silence isn’t enough to create tension. You still need context. Mexican standoffs are naturally tense because everyone involved is at risk of getting shot. Yes, it’s sort of implied that the mansion is creepy, but having fairly well-lit shots of a nice house and two characters talking does not make for a tense scene, even if it doesn’t have a score over it.
Would you Rather attempts to deliver a mix of an Agatha Christie story and Saw, while lacking the wit of the former, and the spectacle of the latter. I kind of feel bad for the people involved in creating this movie, because I think they actually wanted to make a good film. The director and DP both did fine jobs, and all of the actors seemed to be trying really hard (except Jeffrey Combs, no idea what the hell he was doing). Unfortunately, for a movie promising gore and excitement, it really boils down to people just… talking. I mean, it’s shot fine, but the plot, characters, sets, sound, script, and cinematography are all so boring that it’s barely worth watching. Not to mention, it didn’t even stick to the lore of the game it was named after (come on, movie).
Good for: Jeffrey Combs stans, Sasha Grey’s acting career
Bad for: Old people, young people, veterans, vegetarians, medical professionals, butlers, gamblers, alcoholics, and people with cancer
Bod R8s: 2.9/8