The Task Review
|REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS|
It's straight to DVD, so think more Frontier(s) and less Saw...
The Task is one of eight straight-to-DVD horror films released this year by After Dark as part of their ‘Originals’ series. Direct-to-video output is quite often a way for production companies to make a decent amount of money by producing hugely inferior sequels to brand name movies without spending very much. However, it can also be a training ground for up and coming talent who don’t yet have the support of the major studios. Oh and horror films are a direct-to-video staple.
After Dark films are champions of new horror talent and, together with Lionsgate and SyFy, have built upon their HorrorFest: 8 Films to Die For by setting up a second horror festival called After Dark Originals. Their aim is to produce and show brand new horror films from original scripts at a festival in January of each year and then release them on DVD to what could potentially be a much larger audience than they would have had without the screenings. However, the festival only runs throughout the US, so the rest of us only get to see them first on DVD anyway.
The set up of The Task immediately brings to mind films such as Marc Evans’ My Little Eye, as a group of willing volunteers enter an abandoned prison and are challenged to ‘survive’ the night while being recorded for a new reality television show. But, as they begin to participate in the challenges, it becomes clear that there is someone else in the prison intent on murdering them all; and he wasn’t put there by the production company.
While this film is almost completely derivative, I enjoyed it far more than I should have. The scenes in which the contestants are faced with the titular tasks are often quite tense and are the most enjoyable part of the film. The idea that they are terrified of their situation and surroundings (it is a pitch black abandoned prison after all) plays well next to the fact that the audience is scared of something else entirely within the scene. The old prison warden stomps menacingly around his workplace in search of his prey and appears as if from nowhere in the films most chilling scenes. However, when the TV crew finally spot that a non contestant is in there the film begins to fall apart.
What follows is a succession of mistaken thoughts on everyone’s part that all these events are happening for a reason, set up by the show. I won’t give too much away about the rest of the film but needless to say even the crew begin to think they are the butt of a much larger joke. The film toys with this idea multiple times, pushing it and pushing it until it seems completely absurd but at the same time stupidly interesting. The whole thing - apart from the final 5 minutes - feels like an extended version of a Noel Edmonds’s ‘Gotcha’ prank. What's worse, this is then followed by the most hurried ending I have ever seen in a film; it is completely and utterly nonsensical and feels as though the writers had no idea how to finish the film. Either that or budget constraints which, given the production process, probably wasn’t the case.
In terms of the actors, many will recognise the British talent playing the characters of Angel, (Lead Balloon’s Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and Randall (R Wayne from Peter Kay’s Britain’s Got the Pop Factor). Together they make the best of a shoddy script and are the better members of the cast which includes an awful performance from Texas Battle, who can only be described as the token black character. Surprisingly he doesn’t get killed off first, just a minor example of a couple of ways in which the film plays with conventional horror tropes.
This probably isn’t a movie for gore hounds, as the deaths are barely seen and not at all inventive, but that isn’t the point of the film anyway. It does however possess some interesting ideas, isn’t particularly cheap looking and has a few decent scares. If you are after a fun, short horror film then I would recommend The Task. Besides, I need to hear some other opinions on the ending...is it just me?
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