A big reason why I got into watching b-movies and awful horror movies was one of my old childhood friends, Chris. He didn’t have cable and it always seemed like he and his older brothers would rent any movie they could get their hands on back in the mid 80’s when just about everywhere was renting out VHS. There were a few of those movies that I never got to see, and I remember him talking about them a lot. We’ve actually reviewed a few of those movies, and this one is another one that he used to talk about all the time. In the case of “Truth or Dare? – A Critical Madness“, the things he used to say about it was a lot better than this movie actually was once I sat down and watched it for myself.
It all starts out with Mike Strauber (John Brace) has a bad day at work, and cruises home in his gold colored firebird only to find that his wife is having sex with one of his best friends. Mike flips out! He drives his car around to the beach where after about 15 minutes of hearing the same horrible synth music (which would drive anybody crazy), he contemplates blowing his brains out. Instead, he decides to drive around some more and he picks up a busty hitchhiker. He and his new passenger make their way to a local campground to camp out for the night. While at the campground, they decide to play a game of truth or dare… A game that Mike would play as a child and one time ended up slicing his wrist open with a razor blade.
The game starts out innocent enough, “Are you still in love with your wife?” and “I dare you to lift up your top”, but it quickly moves to things like “I dare you to pull out your eye” and “I dare you to pull out your tongue”, which Mike does the latter. After pulling out his tongue, you find out that the hitchhiker was in his imagination, and the local park ranger gets help for him. What follows is a shot of the psychiatric clinic and some scrolling text letting you know that 13 months have passed, and miraculously all of his wounds have healed and through some “excellent physical therapy” he can talk as if nothing ever happened to his tongue! You’ll get used to this shot of the psychiatric clinic and the scrolling text, because it happens about 4 more times in the movie – every time Mike is picked up after killing a few people on his way to murder his ex-wife.
There isn’t a lot of upside to this movie, most of it is drawn out footage of Mike driving around, or a gratuitous boob shot. The random acts of violence that Mike takes out on other people is decent, and all the gore is pretty believable. Some of the highlights include him driving by a kid walking in a field and cutting him down with a chainsaw hanging out the window, and when he smashed an old lady on the side of the neck with a morning star, but those incidences are few and far between. Another highlight is after Mike slices his face open, he decides he’ll only wear a “bronze mask” so people don’t see his scars. The bronze mask looks like a cross between a lizard, a predator mask and some baloney that got slapped on his face, and he can barely see out of it so he always tilts his head back so he has some vision through the slitty eye holes.
I had a hard time trying to figure out if this was supposed to be funny, or if they were trying to be serious. The first part of the movie you can tell the director, Tim Ritter, is trying to showoff using some flashback elements, and treat Mike’s mental illness as something horrific, but in the second half of the movie it seems that they try to throw it all out the window. The bridge between the two halves is when they bring in an “outside” doctor to try to treat Mike, and you almost think that she’s going to become a key character in the upcoming story – but that gets swept under the rug because she spits out some psychobabble for about 3 or 4 minutes and you never hear from her again. Some of the characters are bumbling idiots on purpose, so they try to put in some funny dialog that falls flat because it’s delivered so badly, and some of the random acts of violence are actually pretty funny. Also, the way Mike gears up for the end could be amusing if it wasn’t so cliche (he grabs a chainsaw, nunchuks, a machete, morning star amongst other weapons and ends up using one.)
After watching this one, I realize it probably would have probably been a lot better if I would have watched this back in the day with my friend Chris, I was probably a lot less jaded then. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open for the last half hour of the movie and kept checking to see “Ok, just a half hour more, I can sit through this”, which is never a good sign. The only saving grace for Truth or Dare? – A Critical Madness is the gratuitous boob shots, the sometimes amusing random violence, and the sweet theme song from the end of the movie. Avoid this one unless you’re into masochism or want to see a guy blow his head up by holding a grenade in his mouth or some old dude cut his legs off with a little survival knife.
It also looks like this movie is available on VHS from Amazon.com if you’re so inclined.