Writer/director Jeff Wadlow liked the idea of crafting a narrative that explores the lengths to which close friends will go to stay alive…one that also asks the audience: “How far would you go to survive this game?” The filmmaker admits that he’s long seen humor in horror. “We knew it would be crucial to walk the line and make the stakes feel very real among these friends, but also give the audience permission to laugh at the right moments. I’ve always tried to find levity in the dark parts of my own life, and it was important to walk this tightrope between raw emotion and real laughs.”
The more that Wadlow and his fellow writers developed the narrative, the more they learned that there are versions of the game of “Truth or Dare,” that exist in almost every culture. The rules give people the go-ahead to do what they wouldn’t normally do—like kiss a crush or reveal something deeply personal. “Rarely are we given permission to do something that we shouldn’t,” Wadlow says. “We took that aspect of the game, and then we added life-or-death stakes. We say that not only do you get to do and say these things you wouldn’t normally be allowed to, but if you don’t…you’re going to die. That formed a sort of perfect storm, providing opportunities for a lot of wish fulfillment…as well as a lot of terrifying moments.”
As they worked on the screenplay, the writers knew they had to solve two issues. They had to give the game real, life-or-death, stakes and they had to have winners and losers. The story had to force characters to reveal their darkest secrets…and push them as far as possible while trying to stay alive. Wadlow and his team decided that through a series of exploitations—a deadly, heightened version of what the game teaches us about ourselves—an ancient trickster demon called Callux must move in for the kill. Sums Producer Jason Blum: “The game uses the personal history of these kids against them.”
They imagined a group of college friends who head to Mexico for one last getaway before they begin their post-grad lives and head their separate ways. As with any core crew, long-brewing romances and allegedly buried conflicts begin to emerge as they prepare to say goodbye. When a handsome stranger cons our heroine into getting her friends to play a supposedly silly game of “Truth or Dare,” they awaken a trickster demon that is hell-bent on getting them to share their darkest secrets or confront their deepest fear…and if they don’t, they’ll pay the ultimate price. “If you want to live,” says the director, “you have to either answer as honestly as possible or do the one thing you don’t want to do.”
Ultimately, Callux forces the group to decide how far they are willing to go to protect their friends. “Olivia and Markie’s relationship is the central one in the film, which is why it has to be tested,” shares Wadlow. “Both of them are in love with Lucas, and he’s the third point of that triangle. They have to learn what it is like to sacrifice everything for the ones you love, if they want to make it out alive.”
One of the more entertaining aspects of building the narrative was planting seeds for the audience, allowing the story to move progressively into more terrifying territory. Ultimately, every truth-or-dare sequence was designed to highlight a flaw, weakness or secret a character had been harboring. This ensured that it all felt organic to the character.
Wadlow explains: “We show you that this one character has a drinking problem and that one has a crush on her best friend’s boyfriend. As the game evolves, and more probing questions are asked by—as well as more personal dares—it’s my hope that the audience starts to lean in, learning more about the players. This allows them to play along and have fun, experiencing the dares, and having a reaction to the questions. They’re not only connecting with the characters but also enjoying Callux’s malevolence”
Blumhouse’s terrifying new supernatural thriller stars Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey and Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Landon Liboiron, Sophia Taylor Ali and Nolan Gerard Funk. Truth or Dare opens in theaters April 6th.