In Would You Rather Shepard, played by Jeffrey Combs, offers a struggling young woman a chance at a dinner party and game at his house. He gives her no details other than the fact that the winner walks away with money and opportunities to solve all of their problems. Iris, played by Brittany Snow, is the sole caretaker for her younger brother with leukemia and so agrees.
At the party, it becomes apparent that things are not what they seem when Shepard offers Iris money to eat meat despite her being vegetarian and more money to a recovering alcoholic to drink. What unfolds after is an utterly horrific game of would you rather. The characters are given an awful choice and a limited amount of time to decide between the two.
At first several of the players think to work together to survive the night, even escape, but it becomes rapidly apparent that this is not going to happen. Iris stays a central feature in the movie with Shepard oddly drawn to her, believing she is the “perfect” person for the game.
I give the movie credit for trying to be creative in its attempts to make torture porn. There is a great deal of tension, the characters and how they face the game is well developed, and there is even a solid attempt at a statement about the cruelty of people like Shepard and what they truly are. It is also not overly focused on the gore. There is enough shown to make you turn away, but enough left to the imagination to really dig in for the viewer.
In the end, the movie is what it is, however. It’s a bit above being mindless gore, but it never really achieves full excellence in horror. Shepard, while amazingly acted by Combs, is not a new character. The psychopathic rich person that gets off on watching desperate people do horrific things is not new. This movie does a good job with the idea of it but doesn’t take it to a new level. Iris is a sympathetic character. But she’s mostly surrounded by people that are slightly forgettable, or for some reason desperate to support her.
Still, there are some great scenes that make the movie horrific. It’s upsetting, tense, terrifying, well acted, and well shot.
I would recommend this film to genre fans but steer away those that are on the fence about horror overall, it might be too much for them. It is not one of my favorite horror movies, but it is pretty damn good. I think some moments could have been fleshed out more as well as some characters. Iris and Shepard are clearly meant to steal the scene every time, and they do so. I am also thrilled to watch Combs in any horror role, to be honest. In the end, I would rather re-watch Would You Rather than other horror films, ha, and while I wouldn’t call it amazing, I think it’s a little bit underrated.
However, I have one note, but it includes MAJOR spoilers.
I don’t care for the ending of the movie. Iris wins the game to return home and find her brother had killed himself while she was playing. A theme in the movie was him feeling like he was destroying her life and not wanting to do that. It is a gut-punching ending, I get it. Iris faced and did awful things and then had to thank the man that did this to her, and it was for nothing. There might have been more impact if she had saved him and had to live the rest of her life knowing what she did for her brother, and knowing that the game is still being played with others. Every day of seeing him a reminder. I can see how either ending would be effective. However, I am kind of tired of “Twilight Zone” plot twists at the end of movies. Those twists had a larger impact when they weren’t the norm, I think the challenge now is to have a hard hitting ending without relying on an “ironic” twist to get you there.