So, as anyone who’s been watching movies for even a little while might know, there is absolutely no shortage of horror films. Big budget, low budget, micro-budget…they’re everywhere. An unfortunate rarity in the world of horror is the lack of female directors. Of course, there are far fewer female directors in general, and it’s not because women don’t want to make movies. The thing that’s great about independent films is that there is a broader cross-section of creative forces behind it because there’s not as many cantankerous (sexist) wizards behind the curtain.
Truth or Double Dare (TODD) is both written and directed by women (Dea Divi and Shaquita Smith, respectively) and most of the lead cast are women as well, which is extremely refreshing. Shot in Atlanta, Georgia (my home city!), the film centers on a group of high school friends, who go to a party the night of their ten-year high school reunion. We show the friends in high school as context to what happens at the party ten years in the future. Once at the party, after everyone is pretty drunk, the group plays a game of truth or double dare, which they refer to as “TODD.” The difference between TODD and regular Truth or Dare is as follows: In round one, everyone has to do a dare, no matter what it is, or you’re automatically out. The second round is truth and you have to tell the truth. If you won’t answer the question or you’re caught in a lie, you have to take a shot. Once this game of TODD begins, things take a turn for the dark that reveals a lot of unexpected twists.
“…murdered in the school parking lot by a killer wearing a creepy black mask with a shiny warped smiley-face(ish) design…”
The friend group consists of Michelle (Alyx Libbi), the smart, bookish one; her best friend Egypt (Maia Kavchak), the “bad girl”; Claudia (Gina Hiraizumi), the captain of the dance team; her boyfriend Alex (Austin Chunn), the prototypical smooth-talking high school dream guy; his best friend Rashad, the basketball star; Jonathan (Caleb J. Spivak), the cute nerd that Michelle likes; Lucas (Jake Levin), an otherwise good guy who is completely obsessed with Egypt; Felicia (Jilian Mclendon) an otherwise nice girl who is completely obsessed with Lucas; and Chiggy (Tevon Plunkett), the class stoner turned rapper.
Ten years in the future, Michelle and Jonathan are finally together, Claudia and Alex are married, Egypt is essentially the same, Rashad no longer plays basketball and is a bit of a player, Chiggy is a rapper with a huge house where the party’s being held, and well…I can’t really tell you about what’s going on with Lucas and Felicia, or it’ll spoil the movie for you.
As within any group of friends, especially in high school, there’s a certain amount of drama. This is when the film gets going. Rashad’s friend and possible steroid hook-up, Juan (Michael Vincente) is murdered in the school parking lot (I’ve definitely parked there before in reality) by a killer wearing a creepy black mask with a shiny warped smiley-face(ish) design. Michelle finds his body. There’s very little explanation put forth, just an unannounced ten-year jump in the plot.
“…makes the horror and suspense come from the actual story rather than the gore.”
Don’t worry though; you find out who’s behind that death, and a whole lot more. I enjoyed Truth or Double Dare. It’s extremely well written, and most of the cast is excellent, especially Maia Kavchak as Egypt, the high-school mean girl turned…adult mean girl. The kill scenes are relatively understated and honestly aren’t the scariest part. The film does what a good chunk of horror films don’t anymore; it makes the horror and suspense come from the actual story rather than the gore. The film is an amalgamation of Scream and Beverly Hills 90210 (or Riverdale for people under 30), which is a formula I love.
I’m happy that a great film directed and written by women is out there. The film has the appearance of being intelligently crafted, even with its relatively low budget. You’re not distracted by a lack of production value. There are a couple of not-so-great performances, mostly from minor characters. Regardless, I hope you all see Truth or Double Dare (TODD) because it’s a great film. I might be a little motivated by pride from my home city of Atlanta, but we all know ATL is the Hollywood of the South, which means you should definitely want to see anything that’s shot there!
Truth or Double Dare (TODD) (2018) Written by Dea Divi. Directed by Shaquita Smith. Starring Maia Kavchak, Alyx Libby, Gina Hiraizumi, Austin Chunn, Drew Stephenson, Caleb J. Spivak, Tevon Plunkett, Jake Levin, Jilian McLendon, Shaquita Smith.
8 out of 10 Stars