Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998) has inspired a whole subsection in the genre of teen-horror. Though not in the same league as that Japanese classic, Jeff Wadlow’s similarly creepy and unpredictable movie also has an unseen agent of fear driving the narrative. Typically innocuous at the outset, we meet the group of preppy brats who will be subjected to the malevolence as they set off in a brand-spanking-new SUV for a holiday in Mexico, with the sole intention of getting wasted and laid. Things go awry when they are lured to an abandoned mission by a fellow they met at a bar. During a harmless game of truth or dare, the camaraderie among them shows signs of cracking when some probing, narky questions are asked. With the realisation that there are dark secrets that none of them wishes to reveal, the movie suddenly gets interesting. The ‘demon’ has taken a hold of proceedings and it will see to it that an untruthful answer or unwillingness to follow through with a dare results in death. It is cleverly plotted and acted in a histrionic style that is perfectly suited to the near-edge of hysteria that prevails. Another likeable aspect of the production design is the minimal use of CGI – it heightens the tension. The presence of the ‘demon’ is flagged by characters’ faces being transformed to resemble something like the Guy Fawkes mask of the Occupy movement, but apart from that there is very little visual skullduggery. The relationships between the youngsters (a few of the blokes look too old for their parts) is tight and unwavering and, best of all, I had no idea where the story was headed. The circumstances surrounding the suicide of Markie’s father looked to be obvious from a point earlier than Wadlow may have wished, but a resolution remained foggy. This is one of those movies in which, despite your better judgment, you find yourself becoming totally engrossed and, even with the copycat Nakata ending, it is well worth checking out.
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