‘Would You Rather’ Is Unpredictable and Nasty [Watch]

Would You Rather

Welcome to The Overlooked Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct.’ 

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This week’s selection is an intense horror picture with a pitch-black sense of humor that delivers scathing commentary on the ultra-wealthy. I’m talking about David Guy Levy’s Would You Rather

The film follows Iris (Brittany Snow), a young woman desperate to find a way to pay for her brother’s mounting medical bills. He needs a bone marrow transplant but the two of them can barely afford their day-to-day expenses. Against her better judgment, Iris accepts a peculiar offer to participate in a game hosted by an eccentric billionaire called Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs). The game is a sadistic spin on ‘Would You Rather’. If Iris can survive the night, she will be a wealthy woman. But surviving this game may just be easier said than done. 

The flick has a great cast headed up by Snow. Iris is a solid protagonist; an altruistic character who wants nothing more than to help her brother. That makes watching as she’s subjected to a mean-spirited game with deadly consequences quite harrowing. Based on where she starts the night, her arc is pretty surprising. The way things leave off certainly caught me by surprise.

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Jeffrey Combs is also excellent as Shepard Lambrick. He nails the detached, aristocratic sociopath angle brilliantly. Combs seems to be reveling in playing a pot-stirring monster. He is the perfect choice for the role. Shephard Lambrick is insufferable on paper. But Combs is so charismatic in his portrayal that he makes the character almost bearable.

Screenwriter Steffen Schlachtenhaufen imbues the screenplay with some astute commentary on the perils of unfathomable wealth. If one takes a moment to think about it, Shepard Lambrick could use his billions to make the world a better place. Instead, he gets his kicks playing with human beings like toys. He delights in making the less fortunate humiliate themselves for his amusement. 

That level of detachment calls to mind billionaires who hesitate to pay the laborers on whose backs they’ve built their empires a wage that will cover the bare necessities. While I don’t suspect most billionaires are quite as unhinged as Lambrick, many of the world’s wealthiest people seem to forget what it’s like to struggle. And I think Schlachtenhaufen’s script does a great job illustrating that. 

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I also appreciate the way the film keeps the viewer guessing. The first shocking turn of events transpires near the onset of the second act. What makes it especially shocking is when and how it happens. That piece really caught me off guard. Leading up to that development, there is the underlying notion that danger is afoot. But following that first act of violence, a sense of panic sets in. It becomes painfully obvious that these people are in grave danger without a lifeline. 

The film builds tension with each round of the game growing more sadistic than the last. Just when we think we know what to expect, Lambrick changes the rules or raises the stakes. All for his sadistic pleasure. It’s painful to watch these characters suffer but it certainly serves to elevate the tension level. The narrative ultimately builds to a gut-wrenching conclusion that stuck with me for a while after I first watched Would You Rather. It’s gritty and intense but feels well-suited to that by which it was preceded. 

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Despite the violent subject matter, director David Guy Levy doesn’t show a great deal of viscera. But the cinematography and editing do an effective job of convincing the viewer they’ve seen more than they have. The challenges that the guests are tasked with are exceptionally brutal. But the camera often cuts away from the action, instead letting us listen to the desperate screams of the contestants. That likely helped keep the picture on budget but more importantly, it allows anticipation to get the best of us. Levy clearly understands that what we conjure in our minds is far worse than anything he could present to the audience. 

All things considered, Would You Rather is an uncomfortable film to sit through. It’s tense, mean-spirited, and never shies away from an opportunity to horrify the audience. If you’re interested in giving the film a look, you can scope it on Tubi, as of the publication of this post. 

That’s all for this installment of The Overlooked Motel. If you’d like to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on TwitterThreads, or Instagram



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