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Odds Are (2018) Review

Odds Are was directed and written by Peter Markle (Bat*21, Without a Trace) and stars Karynn Moore (Messina High, Jane by Design), Markus Silbiger (Zac and Mia, In the Vault), Alejandra Morin (Girls After Dark, Interstellar Wars), and Ron Eldard (Deep Impact, Justified). It’s about three college students who play a game called “odds are” which gets them into trouble with a mysterious man.

The Plot: Verbal games don’t tend to translate well to film, largely because they’re just games without any mythos beyond the rules of the game. Markle’s script doesn’t have much to offer narratively, in the same way, that movies like Truth or Dare and Charlie, Charlie only had their titular games to ride on.

Couple Tracy (Moore) and Ryan (Silbiger) are on a date at Venice Pier in California with third wheel Kelly (Morin) when the girls decide to introduce the titular game to Ryan. Two people have to pick a number between any range (5 to 10, 10 to 20, etc.) and the third person counts to three, whereupon the participants say their number, if they had the same number, whoever started the game has to do a dare. On their way back to their respective houses, Kelly starts one more game that doesn’t go as well as before.

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Talking their way into a stranger’s house and leaving is the challenge, and it’s an immensely stupid one that no one would do, but for the purposes of the script, Kelly accepts. Once she finagles her way into the Man’s (Eldard) house and gets locked in, forcing Tracy and Ryan to enter, Odds Are runs out of the story to tell – and it only really needs the same amount that it has, but it relies on essentially a challenge system that no reasonable person would commit to, stretching plausibility to its limit before truly getting started. Although some of the damage is undone by a solid reveal deep into the runtime, Odds Are overplays itself and completely falls apart.

The Characters: In a choice that seemed a decade too late even in 2018, Markle’s trio of protagonists isn’t very good at filling that role. Largely derivative and hard to like, there’s little reason to care about their fates.

Tracy is the only likeable person out of the group, mostly because of her earnestness. During Odds Are’s opening act, there’s a segment of a few minutes before Kelly arrives where it seems like Tracy is actually trying to have fun while Ryan brushes her off; a feeling that continues throughout the first half of the feature. Still, Tracy cares about her boyfriend and doesn’t want to participate in the challenges for fear of repercussions, hoping he’ll do the same. Not much development happens across the runtime, but one can at least hope she comes out unscathed.

Ryan isn’t particularly sympathetic in the way he’s quick to embrace challenges from Kelly that often come at the expense of strangers and the safety of his friends, accepting dares to steal a man’s ice cream and driving while sticking his head out of his car’s sunroof. At least he smartens up when he enters the Man’s house, taking precautions by grabbing weapons and keeping Tracy away from the place for as long as he can, but one can’t help but feel like Odds Are could’ve been completely avoided if he acted with any sense before the ultimate dare.

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Kelly is entirely lamentable as she encroaches on Tracy and Ryan’s relationship in more ways than one. Not only does she pry into the details of their sex life, but she’s almost always antagonizing Tracy for an admittedly obvious reason in the form of wanting Ryan back from her previous time with him. When Kelly isn’t being rude, she’s getting everyone in trouble, making it questionable at best when Ryan tries to save her.

Milquetoast acting from Silbiger and Morin seal the deal on their weak and unlikable characters, but at least Moore does well, and Eldard steals the show.

The Horror: Curiosity carries Markle’s outing, as he does a much better job at setting up intrigue and delivering on scares than he does with providing characters to be scared for. Essentially, he made a home invasion movie from multiple angles, which is highly laudable.

A game like the one the characters play can only go poorly after the most benign dares are completed, but just how wrong is anyone’s guess until Kelly knocks on the Man’s door. Markle keeps Tracy and Ryan in suspense for a good while until the Man takes Kelly’s phone and orders Ryan to look through a window to see Kelly being dangled with a noose around her neck but still alive, taunting the young man and luring him in with ease. The sequence sets the tone well, with the Man having a warped form of a good time as he plays the piano and nonchalantly evades the other characters.

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For fear of being little more than a spectre, the Man is given a backstory by a detective who walks by his house every night. Years ago, he’d been suspected of killing his wife and taking the life insurance money, but the detective couldn’t prove it and is mugged by the Man, who knows the case. Odds Are eventually gets up close and has the Man speak in intentionally erratic dialogue that effectively sets an off-kilter antagonist up for success, which only gets better when he plays the game with Ryan.

Not every scene works well, as the movie can fall into clichéd sequences of characters hiding in poorly concealed places and having to kick the antagonist off of them once found. And subsequent scenes of characters wandering around don’t exactly exude horror, however, Odds Are has some scares, but it’s the more disturbing scene that get the most mileage, and without Eldard, they wouldn’t be half as effective as they are.

The Technics: A low-budget production with little to its name, Odds Are doesn’t have its own name in its favour, but it fares well in most departments thanks to competent people behind the camera.

Markle, a veteran TV director, knows how to frame his shots and keep up appearances better than the less experienced directors that are more likely to take on movies of this funding range. Despite the movie running ten minutes longer than it should, the key shots hit their marks well and the atmosphere is maintained. Soft colour grading and good lighting keep Odds Are moody but not underlit, and cinematographer Andrew Fronczak (Tick, Neon Bleed) does well within tight interiors.

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Shooting in an upscale Californian household lends a lot more to work with, though, and not everything is kept tight as the characters explore the Man’s house from top to bottom. It can feel as though the filmmakers were a little too enamoured with their surroundings because of the thoroughness of said exploration, but sequences involving a terraced roof and an attic partially make up for it. Thankfully, the movie does eventually shift locations, but it backfires more than it helps.

Decently plotted to a point and unremarkably acted (except for the always great Ron Eldard), Odds Are is at least unsettling for sustained periods but falls apart in the end. If you’re up too late and need a movie to watch in a blur, odds are you’ll be fine with Odds Are.

Odds are is available on DVD and Digital platforms from Freestyle Digital Media. Odds Are, you can find more suggestions for further viewing at FilmTagger.

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