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WEIRDO FLICKS: 'Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness'

by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe... 

'Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness' - 1986, Directed by Tim Ritter

The last post I did was for another of Tim Ritter's bizarro low-budget films called 'Killing Spree.' This one is a little higher-quality (which is surprising because it came out BEFORE 'Killing Spree'), has somewhat better acting, but maintains the general dementedness. 

'Truth or Dare?' was Ritter's 'classic,' released in the middle of the VHS boom, and made its way into many a pre-teen sleepover. Apparently, one big fan of the film is Elijah Wood. The film's popularity is probably due to the fact that it was marketed as a 'regular' slasher, along the lines of 'Halloween.' Though the killer is indeed a masked crazy man, that's pretty much where the similarities end. Ritter's cinematic voice is much more similar to a backwoods David Cronenberg than John Carpenter.

I've read this described as a 'fever dream,' and that's very accurate. Though it's rooted in reality, the killer, Mike Strauber, often kills with weapons he got from seemingly nowhere. It's also often unclear if he's hallucinating or if it's reality, and he seems totally unstoppable, despite not really trying to get away from the police. Oh yeah, and he drive-by chainsaws a very young Backstreet Boy. Really.

So, the plot on paper doesn't sound too dissimilar from 'Killing Spree.' Strauber, too, catches his wife cheating (although she's ACTUALLY cheating in this film. See the 'Killing Spree' review for clarification) and goes insane with rage. However, instead of just killing the parties involved, he goes TOTALLY insane and starts hacking away at everyone, himself included. In fact, the first violence we're exposed to is him cutting off his finger and ripping out his tongue because a (possibly) imaginary lady tells him too.

Things continue like this, and he is discharged and re-admitted into the same psych ward a few times. At one point, he tries to rip off his face and then starts wearing the iconic metal mask. Most of these acts of violence revolve around the game 'truth or dare,' with which Mike is obsessed. It's not really clear why, just some manifestation of madness, I guess.

And, even despite the mask and the use of a chainsaw, this never really feels like a rip-off of any of the 'big-name' slashers like 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' or the aforementioned 'Halloween.' This is pretty much like nothing else, and while 'Killing Spree' was in-your-face and often hilarious, 'Truth or Dare?' is just downright creepy and weird.

If you want something totally off-kilter and different for the Halloween season, this is your flick right here. It's got enough of the popcorn-slasher vibe to watch with some friends, but it'll also warp your mind a little bit.

VHS photo by Toby Hudson.