Would You Rather
Directed by David Guy Levy
This movie is many things: a ridiculous horror film; a nice little showcase for talented character actors; an indictment of the One Percent; and a grand metaphor for capitalism. In it, a desperate woman (Brittany Snow), caring by herself for a teenage brother who needs a bone marrow transplant, gets invited to a dinner party by a potential benefactor with limitless resources (horror icon Jeffrey Combs). He can help her; all she has to do is win a little... contest, the parlor game of the title, except here it's not a hypothetical thought-exercise—it's would you rather electrocute yourself or the person sitting next to you? Stick an ice pick in an old lady's leg or whip the army vet in the corner? Those who don't choose or who try to leave will be shot in the face.
Set mostly in a baroque dining room, the movie is a chamber piece—like a sadistic 12 Angry Men—with plenty of opportunities for actors like John Heard and Enver Gjokaj (who was so terrific in Dollhouse but is, like, never in anything) to show off. There are plenty of high-emotion moments of pain and panic; the characters are perpetually under duress, at the whims of the mad and uber wealthy, who force the less fortunate to battle each other, to hurt their neighbors and themselves—not even to make money or get ahead but just to stay alive. "This game isn't about helping each other," says Sasha Grey as the selfish one, encapsulating the ethos of our economic system. "It's about eliminating the rest of you." Most of the gruesome violence happens off-screen, or in fast glimpses, but this is still brutal, cruel, difficult-to-defend filmmaking; it demonstrates a nastiness matched only by capitalism itself!
Opens February 8