A few things come to mind after watching After Dark’s horror / thriller ‘The Task’ which was a little low on horror and not all that thrilling, but it did have a few things working in its favor. First of all, who out there wants to pitch in and get together a Bulgaria Movie Package? It can’t be all that expensive since so many movies are shot over there nowadays. I, myself, don’t have any money to throw into the pot, but I can facilitate activity with the best of them. Hit me up. Secondly, this is like the fourth or fifth horror flick I’ve seen where a largely British cast is forced to pretend to be Americans and some of the cast members had trouble masking their accents. I imagine if they all speak Britishy and stuff, then that would make this movie a ‘foreign film’ and I guess Americans don’t like foreign films. Lastly, for whatever reason… because it should work in theory… but I think it has been proven that the reality show / horror movie angle simply doesn’t work. But this one should’ve worked and I’m gonna tell you why it didn’t.
A bunch of people are snatched off the street, rounded up in a van, forced to put on pigs masks, and taken to parts unknown. Relax, they are going to be okay. A few months ago they all tried out for a reality show, and they won! The show called ‘The Task’, the brainchild of Connie the Ambitious TV producer, played by actress Alexandra Staden who is really, really pretty, places these people in an abandoned prison with a sordid history. The rules are simple. Stay one night in the prison and get your twenty large at daybreak. There are tasks you need to perform during this night however, and considering that the lighting is poor, the place is freaky and creaky, and unknown to all The Warden (Valentin Ganev) is roaming the halls… it will be an eventful night, to say the least.
The warden, as it is told, committed all kinds of atrocities behind these walls. Dude gassed his prisoners, submerged his prisoners in big vats of dookey, fed the prisoners to themselves, he raped his female prisoners, knocked them up, and then forced them to eat their newborns. That guy… I tell you. Our future victims consist of Randall the Gay Dude (Marc Pickering) who’s afraid of religion, Dixon the Black Guy (Texas Battle) who’s afraid of being submerged in dookey, Shoe the Hot Chick (Ashley Mulheron) who’s afraid of having meat in her mouth, Toni the Smart Girl (Amara Karan) who’s
afraid of being left alone, and then there are twins Stanton (Tom Payne) the pretty boy and his sister Angel (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) the tough chick who aren’t afraid of anything… before today that is.
So with Connie and her crew monitoring the situation from the control booth, the game begins. Damn if there isn’t some weird looking, out of shape dude popping up who isn’t supposed to be there. The crew tells Connie that they think that guy is a plant, designed to elicit a response from the crew in the control panel, footage that can be used for some ‘behind the scenes’ type extras, but Connie has her doubts. After the contestants start dying for real, Connie knows she has to get the survivors the hell out of there. But will she be too late? Or maybe all isn’t what it seems… Or maybe it is… I’m not telling.
Here’s what I liked about the task. I liked the spooky nature of the prison atmosphere even though I don’t think director Alex Orwell squeezed nearly enough fear out of that really promising setting. I also liked the setup of the film, recognizing that the whole reality show horror angle rarely works, but watching the techs in the control room manipulating the elements for the contestants, switching back to the contestants experiencing what they are going through, and not knowing whether or not the sounds and sights are mystical or part of the show did keep the viewer slightly off balance. Also, I didn’t see the ending coming. At least the first one. The second one we saw coming a half mile away. Regardless, good job at keeping the audience in the dark as to what was going on.
Ah, but the number one problem with ‘The Task’, however, is that the Warden simply wasn’t very scary. That box cover with the grizzly monster on front? Ignore that. I mentioned it before, but while the After Dark series of films are largely hit and miss affairs, their cover art is almost always spectacular. Back to the movie, if it was some kind of sentient monster manipulating things, then this film probably would’ve been much better. Instead we had this guy who looked like… I don’t know… Abner Doubleday with his shirt off or Winston Churchill stomping around topless trying to scare people. I’m sorry, but unless you have a cherubic fat guy phobia, that’s not going to scare anybody.
Even if we did have a specter worthy of our fearful respect, we’re still left with a movie that didn’t generate a lot of tension or dread considering that the atmosphere our characters were trapped in should’ve been nothing but tension and dread.
A horror / thriller with not a lot of terror and even fewer thrills. ‘The Task’ had some promise, but tragically it was not realized.