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RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
- Making-of Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
- Lionsgate Reel
Another entry into the Reality Show Where Contestants Start Dying subgenre of horror films.
Written by Kenny Yakkel. Directed by Alex Orwell. Acted by Alexandra Staden, Adam Rayner, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Tom Payne, Texas Battle, Marc Pickering, Amara Karan, Victor McGuire, Ashley Mulheron and Valentin Ganev.
A handful of stereotypes all get fake kidnapped and taken to an old, abandoned prison in order to participate in a reality show. Once there, they are each required to perform a task given to them by a psychotic clown on a video monitor. As they go about their tasks, the producers in charge of the show and the contestants themselves start realizing they’re not alone in the prison and that being on television might not be worth all the blood and terror.
I watched this movie last night and, upon waking this morning, had forgotten just about everything there was to know about The Task. I remember thinking it was fast paced and fairly enjoyable with a few well composed shots and a nice performance or two, but that it also had some deep seated structure issues and an ending that embraces the worst habits of lazy horror storytelling. I think that means it’s a mixed bag. Even being a mixed bag, it’s about a thousand times better than the last After Dark Original movie I saw, Scream of the Banshee, which was woefully unprepared to be viewed by humans but also had the crutch of being a SyFy Channel Original ShitFucker against it. Seriously, The Task is to Scream of the Banshee as a splinter is to syphilitic gonorrhea.
It’s exactly what you think it will be if you read a description of the film. The stereotypes are in full effect with the Flaming Queen, the Creepy Goth Chick, the Dumb Blonde, the Cool British Guy, the Token Black Jock, and the Genius Indian Girl all jockeying to win this reality show and get some cash. They die in the exact order you expect but not in the exact ways you would expect. For instance, Token Black Jock’s task is to climb into the solitary confinement hatch which is basically a steel coffin buried three feet into the floor. When he gets into the hatch you expect some horrible shit to happen to him in there because he’s afraid of being buried alive and that would fit with the rule of blatant foreshadowing prevalent in almost every horror movie ever made. Since he’s the best looking male character and also the most macho, the assumption is that he’ll be in there for 20 minutes or so and experience some weird shit but then get released by someone eventually and save the day. He ends up staying in the hole for the rest of the movie and is only flashed back to two or three times as he begs for someone to let him out. When someone finally opens the hatch in the last 10 minutes, he’s dead as shit. I mean, way to go for subverting my expectations The Task, but by never spending any time with him before putting him in the hole, we aren’t given any reasons to care about his demise. The subversion would have actually been effective if Token Black Jock had been a person to us instead of just a stereotype for me to mock in this review.
As the people go about doing their tasks, we’re let into the production van and get to see the reality show from the producers point of view. The only reason for this is so we can “get scared” when the producers start seeing things happen that they didn’t set up. The reason they chose the prison to film in is because many years earlier it had a Warden who was crazy as tits, walking around naked and raping and killing willy- nilly until the authorities came in and arrested his ass. Apparently after he was arrested and all surviving patients were moved, homeless people started squatting there and disappearing at an alarming rate. Since the producers don’t consider the homeless to be actual people, they’re not concerned about sending a handful of reality show contestants in. Eventually, the contestants and the producers start seeing a man that looks exactly like the Warden strolling around the prison with a knife, ready to stab some people off the island, if you get my meaning. The way the Warden moves and stalks the contestants was the highlight of the movie for me, as the director really played the use of shadow of of the Warden’s bald head pretty well. Also, the Warden looks like a cross between Tom Hardy’s Bronson and the guy Indiana Jones fights next to the propeller blades in Raiders, so I guess that’s a win also.
As the producers get sucked into the game also, it becomes clear that the movie really isn’t interested in the reality show aspect other than to frame the story and add a bit of meat to the twist in the end. I was going to initially talk about the twist and how it stacks up to the rest of the film, but since it’s one of the best things about the film, I think I’d rather discuss it in the comments or the forums (if anyone has actually seen this, that is). It’s a neat little twist that I guessed early on in the film, but then thought it would be too easy and gave up on it, only to see I was right all along. I liked the twist and thought it worked and just as I was about to declare this a three manhole cover of a movie (to my empty living room), they added one more twist to the final minutes that wrecked the goodwill I had just accumulated in my nether regions, leaving me with a case of cinematic blue balls.
The Task tries to be too many things at once and the consequence is that it all cancels each other out and leaves the film hollow and forgettable. It’s not violent enough to be a gorefest or scary enough to be a true chiller; it’s not well written enough to be social commentary or smart enough to be satire. It’s just a breezy 9o minute thriller that might make you smile a few times and give you the creeps once or twice, but it’s ultimately just a splash in the barrel of what horror movies should aspire to and (unless you take notes) you’ll forget about it within 48 hours of consuming it. A lot of horror movies I’ve seen in the last year have been utterly forgetful and it makes me wonder exactly what the last good horror movie actually was. REC2? Whatever it is, it’s not The Task.
The film itself looks nice, but it’s another bare bones release from Lionsgate only containing a 5 minute behind the scenes featurette, a theatrical trailer and a reel of upcoming Lionsgate releases. That’s okay, though. The less special features there are, the less of them I have to watch.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars