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  Dare, The Unpleasant Memories
Year: 2019
Director: Giles Alderson
Stars: Bart Edwards, Richard Brake, Richard Short, Alexandra Evans, Robert Masser, Mitchell Norman, Harry Jarvis, Daniel Schutzmann, Devora Wilde, Oliver Cunliffe, Alexander Biehn, George Pilsworth, Maddy Bryant, Lelia Yvetta, Emily Haigh, Ethan Hazzard
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jay Jackson (Bart Edwards) is a businessman whose wife (Devora Wilde) is unhappy about the time he spends away from his family at meetings and conferences, but tonight, although he is preparing to head off to another conference tomorrow, does have some benefits as he is able to spend it with his two young daughters. However, now it is time for bed and he goes downstairs to look for the kids' storybook, but as he is doing that, he is shocked to see someone pass by the window outside. Then the alarm is raised as he rushes into the kitchen to find his wife lying unconscious on the floor with one little girl kneeling over her - and suddenly, a scream from upstairs. Jay grabs a kitchen knife and discovers the other daughter under her bed...

But he hasn't noticed the hulking figure standing over him as he does so and is abruptly knocked out. So far, so suspenseful, but this was a Millennium production, basically the Cannon for the twenty-first century, therefore you would quickly find yourself wondering which franchise they had ripped off this time, for it was not an example of their other trick of buying the rights to an existing franchise and making a new instalment. On seeing Jay and three others in various stages of physical distress tied to a wall in a dingy basement room, your thoughts would immediately alight on Saw and its many sequels, and indeed that is where they would stay for the duration, only with a significant diversion to the IT pair of Stephen King horror adaptations.

No, there was no supernatural killer clown in The Dare, but there was a connection to the characters' younger lives, meaning if The Losers' Club had been the bullies, they might have wound up something like this, as victims of a Jigsaw-alike kidnapper and torturer. Such comparisons left the movie looking akin to an hour and a half public information film warning impressionable youngsters away from victimising people, though even compared to nineteen-seventies classics of the art like Apaches this was particularly grim stuff. The masked maniac's modus operandi was to force his prisoners to do the torturing for him: yes, if you thought torture porn had gone out of fashion in favour of exorcists and apparitions, think again, on this evidence it had been just warming up as director and co-writer Giles Alderson embraced the tropes with some gusto.

We did not stick with the inmates in this unofficial gaol throughout the running time, as there were backstories to fill in, chiefly about the maniac, who we see as a young boy named Dominic being raised by the Night King himself, Richard Brake in a remote house in the woods. We quickly twig these two are not related and the only reason the boy is sticking around is because not only is he a prisoner of this madman, but even if he escapes his clutches they are so off the beaten track that there's no way he can reach civilisation. So he sticks around, getting intensive tutoring in pointless violence and twisted morality, until... well, there were a couple of revelations that were guessable, but not worth spoiling for those who might find this their cup of tea. One of those Western genre flicks obviously shot in Eastern Europe, for what it was this was brisk and efficient, if not exactly enjoyable, and thanks to an urban legend mood that rendered the affair a little more palatable, plus a cast who didn't falter, accent-wise or otherwise, it was a fair diversion for the horror fan who liked stronger material than, say, Blumhouse usually released. Music by Mario Grigorov.

[Lionsgate UK presents twisted horror The Dare on Digital Download 5 October and DVD 12 October 2020.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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