Netflix Movie Review: ‘Would You Rather’

August 10, 2020
Would You Rather

‘WOULD You Rather’ is one of those violent films where characters are subjected to various acts of indignity or torture like in the “Saw” series, “The Hunt”, “Escape Room”, “Ready or Not”, etc. 

Iris (Brittany Snow) lost her parents and now cares for a younger brother, Raleigh (Logan Miller), who’s afflicted with leukemia. His doctor introduces Iris to Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs), a rich man and eccentric philanthropist who’s willing to help her with all the expenses of her brother’s treatment.

But first, she has to attend a dinner party that he is hosting and join a mysterious parlor game he plays with his guests. If she’d win, he’d not only pay for her brother’s entire treatment but also get a bone marrow donor to help cure his leukemia. 

The following night, in Shepard’s mansion, Iris meets the other seven guests that include an assortment of contestants, including Linda, an old woman in a wheel chair and you’d wonder why she was even considered to join the game. 

Steak is served at dinner, but Iris is a vegetarian so she refuses to eat it. Their host then offers to give her $10,000, if she would forget being a vegetarian, and she complies to get the money. Another contestant, Conway (John Heard), is an alcoholic who’s trying to kick the habit, but Shepard tempts him, offering to give him $50,000 to drink a bottle of Scotch and Conway quickly swallows his principle. 

The game officially begins after dinner and it turns out to be “Would you rather”, where each player is given two options: hurt himself or another person. Shepard says if they’re not willing to play it, anyone can leave at that point, but all of them choose to stay. 

The first game attaches a contestant to an electric shock machine then he is given the choice to push the button to shock himself or the person seated next to him. Conway says he’d rather leave, but Shepard says he already lost his chance to do so earlier and when he insists on going, he is shot on the head and dies.

Everyone is shocked and it makes them realized that they are all playing a game of death. As the game goes on, things get from bad to worse as they’re asked to whip and even stab or drown each other in a barrel of water. They are forced to kill but they also die one by one, until just one winner emerges. 

But there is an ironic ending when the last player standing realizes that it is all for nothing. Of course, we can’t tell you why as it’ll be a sure spoiler. Suffice it to say that if you enjoyed the gruesome “Saw” series, you might be entertained by this witless tribute to that franchise and its ilk. 

This torture porn flick obviously is a low-budget potbolier compared to the “Saw” series where elaborately conceived gadgets are used to torment the victims. This movie has only one main setting, the dining room and the action happens right at the very dining table where almost the entire film takes place.

Director David Guy Levy seems to want the viewer to do some introspection about the morality of what’s going on. He’s obviously trying to be satirical, showing that people would be willing to do anything to win money. But as one luckless contestant says: “What’s the matter with you people? What did I ever do to you?” 

But sorry, despite its seemingly lofty intentions, the movie never goes beyond being a mere cheap exploitation film. Although it generates some moments of genuine tension as the players realize they’re all battling for survival, it doesn’t really get us to invest in what is going on as we don’t know much about the other victims so we cannot fully sympathize with them. Add to that the fact that the movie lacks a clear cathartic resolution that other films of this sort managed to achieve.

Brittany Snow seems properly terrorized in a number of scenes but not one of the contestants are really required to do heavy acting. Jeffrey Combs has a more showy role as the weird and obviously psychotic host and he seems to be enjoying himself in the role, devouring the scenery with much alacrity. But although he is clearly having fun, sorry but this doesn’t really carry over to the audience and doesn’t really help redeem the movie.