Director – David Guy Levy
Cast – Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs, Jonny Coyne, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Enver Gjokaj, Sasha Grey, John Heard, Charlie Hofheimer, Logan Miller, June Squibb, Eddie Steeples, Robin Taylor, Robb Wells
Release Year – 2013
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Would You Rather is the newest horror film I have come across that settles around the somewhat popular idea of pitting strangers against one another (in a controlled environment) and letting them battle bodies / minds until only one is remaining. In this piece we follow Iris, a young woman facing hard financial times along with the burden of caring for her critically ill brother. When prominent aristocrat Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combes) offers her an opportunity to achieve great personal wealth as well as the vital health care her brother needs, she takes the plunge and agrees to take part in Lambrick’s game – a sadistic and deadly game of “Would You Rather”.
The first act moves quickly, setting up the conflict Iris faces as she is consistently turned down for low-paying jobs as she tries her very best to provide the resources needed to help her ailing brother. Her search leads her to meeting Shepard Lambrick, whose family runs the illustrious Lambrick Foundation that provides charity to people all over the world. Left with no other choice but to accept Lambrick’s offer, Iris joins 7 other people at one of Lambrick’s homes and begins a night of terror where she will really earn every dollar she receives. The “Would You Rather” questions are at first a bit simple, with Lambrick toying at his guests to see how much it will cost them to abandon their beliefs. At the 23 minute mark Iris accepts several thousand dollars to break her vegetarianism and consume an entire beef steak as well as fois gras, and a recovering alcoholic is offered $50,000 to consume a bottle of the world’s finest single malt scotch…which he accepts. It becomes obvious here that Lambrick is very enthused in the acts people will commit for money, securing his belief that “everybody has a price”. At the 34 minute mark the game takes a sinister turn, where the doors are locked and plastic wrap is placed on the walls, and that is when things really kick into high gear. Each contestant is given the option to hurt themselves or hurt another person, and with people of different ages, backgrounds, and mental toughness, not everyone wishes to hurt another person…forcing them to subject themselves to terrible pains. As the story continues the questions grow in intensity, and before long people start dying in gruesome and sometimes heartbreaking fashion.
After the first few questions it becomes obvious that Lambrick is not only trying to break down the contestants and cause disorder amongst them, but he is also trying to eliminate the strongest players first. The participants are faced with the daunting task of severely injuring the strongest player or injuring the weakest, who just so happens to be a kind old lady. Our hearts are tugged on as we watch the strong one slowly inching his way to death as well as watch the old lady take abuse by those who don’t have the heart to finish off the strong one, and the rest of the game plays off with just as much emotional and mental anguish. I do not want to go into extreme detail, but there are some scenes that I assume most viewers will find hard to watch, and not just because the acts are painful, but because they are shocking and break down cultural norms of who cannot be hurt in a horror film. The writing execution of each of the main characters was fantastic and they all served their roles in the end. We had the good, the bad, the ugly, and those who are hard to love and harder to hate, like Lambrick. Lambrick stole the show in this story with just how well his character was written. The gentleman’s dialogue is awesome, his philosophy is wicked, and his remorse is replaced with exuberant praise for his contestants who do what it takes to survive the game. In the end, this story is the framework for how great this flick is, and the positives don’t stop at the story…
Director David Guy Levy is absolutely fantastic in his execution of this film and its awesome screenplay. From the get-go we are enveloped into the storyline thanks to his ability to suck us in to Iris’ crumbling life as she tries desperately to provide for her ailing brother. Once things get going and the “game” starts his execution really starts to hit the spot and we are left almost gasping for breath due to the extreme levels of tension he brings forth from the story. He shoots the film in a very full-frontal fashion and we are forced to watch as the participants are brutally punished in their quest for what they expected to be easy money. The horror reigns high and Levy never shies away from it and in fact only brings us closer to the action when the action arises. Levy received good performances from his actors but none were even close to the epicness that is Jeffrey Combes, as Mr. Lambrick. Jeffrey Combes is no stranger to the horror genre but I have NEVER seen him act as good as he does in this film. Not only is Lambrick unlike any character I have seen him portray but he portrayed him in near Oscar-worthy fashion and left me, a devout Jeffrey Combes fan, in awe at just how great he was in this truly great horror film.
Overall, Would You Rather is another great horror film that has gone under the radar and not received the attention it deserves. The story is great and will keep you engaged until the end credits roll and the direction is just as good. It comes with a lot of horror that hits hard and never lets go for more than a few moments, making for one of the most effective horror films I have seen in a while.