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Truth or Dare (1999)

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Louise
John Lovat ...
Shopkeeper
Delma Walsh ...
Vicky
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James
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The 80s are not dead.
26 June 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

This short uses the flashy visual language of advertisements and pop videos to satirise the lifestyles those forms celebrate. Four 'young' people, two men and two women (including minor media celebrity Donna Air) retire after a night out to the blokes' well-appointed 'gaff'. During the credit sequence we have seen a pair of masked men rob an off-licence, and threaten its owner. The laddish lads are up for what they can get, and Louise (Air), impressed by their apparent wealth, is willing to oblige, but her friend Vicky is repulsed by their brash crudeness.

As they drink into the night, they play the game of the title, spinning a vodka bottle, asking each other predictable questions about sexual history which are answered in stylised sepia vignettes (e.g. Louise is asked whether she has ever had sex in public: her imagined reply sees her merging satiated from under a table at a wedding). Despite the larkish behaviour, there are intimations of menace throughout, especially as the boys periodically absent themselves for shots of coke; so when the ultimate dare is conceived - Louise must rob an offy in a comedy mask - we fear the worst.

Once you realise the tricksy style is creating a critical distance from its characters, rather than mythologising them, you can appreciate this vexing film more: there's nothing more repellant than jumpy editing and show-off camerawork indulged in for its own sake. Despite one of the characters winking at us throughout, none of the quartet are particularly sympathetic, being the kind of desperate jocks you will see in any nightclub at any time throughout England, minus the wit and spontaneity. These are people who have so dedicated their lives to acquiring signs of status - clothes, cars, women, drugs etc. - that their own personalities have been hollowed out. Life having become too difficult, they turn it into a game. They are the unwelcome ghost of the 80s returned to haunt us.

Only one character seems dissatisfied with the set-up, refusing to play along, ultimately wielding common-sense power, claiming, through sadism and bondage, the sex so absent and so longed for in the film.


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