The Task (2011)

Directed By: Alex Orwell
Written By: Kenny Yakkel
Starring: Alexandra Staden
  Victor McGuire
  Adam Rayner
  Texas Battle
The Task

After Dark Originals: so far they’ve given us a decent set of releases, having delivered the genuinely enjoyable Husk, Prowl, Seconds Apart and Fertile Ground in 2011. The Task is their latest release, but it’s sadly the runt of the litter and seriously fails to impress.

Seven contestants are dragged off the street and handcuffed together, thrown into a new reality TV game show. Their task: to survive one night at a condemned state penitentiary that has a sordid history of murder, sexual abuse, cannibalism and lots of tramps going missing. Apparently haunted by the ghost of the psychotic warden, the game forces them to face their greatest fears, pitting them against individual tasks to progress to the next level. But what the producers don’t realise is that the prison is genuinely haunted, and The Warden is still very very angry…

The premise is straight-forward and a little tired, having been firmly raped by the likes of Halloween Resurrection, House on Haunted Hill, My Little Eye, Ghost Game and Wrong Turn 2 (to name a few), and The Task sadly adds nothing new to this horror sub-genre.

The Task is packed full of decent ideas and disturbing concepts – it is a nice set up and some scenes should disturb – but it is filmed in a way that makes it distinctly unscary and woefully uninventive. It is only in the final third of the film, when the production team begin to get heavily involved, that The Task really comes to life. But it is simply too late, and tragically all hope is beaten to death by an absolutely appalling ending that literally makes no sense whatsoever.

The entire film is tonally awkward, set-up like a comedy but executed with a needless po-facedness. It seems there was no corroboration between first-time director Alex Orwell and writer Kenny Yakkel, as it is written like a silly comedy-horror but plays out with a deadly seriousness.

Yakkel’s script also fails miserably to create the naturalistic dialogue needed to “sell” this idea to an audience, where characters actions and verbal reactions are so unrealistic it makes it difficult to relate to. In fact, it is very difficult to sympathise with anyone in The Task.

Packed with hideously clichéd characters that are deliberately annoying – a bold n’ brash British brother and sister, a flamboyant homosexual, a hyper-intelligent smartarse, a muscular arrogant jock and a prissy blonde slut – it is horribly reminiscent of real-life reality game shows, but sadly makes for frustrating watching. Much like when we watch Big Brother and desperately pray for an Ebola breakout to destroy every muppet in the house, The Task has no sympthatic characters. At all.

Sadly the characters are not the only clichéd aspects of The Task, as it rolls exactly down the path we expect them to go – cameras malfunction, people misinterpret real ghosts for fake ones and there is a laughable amount of double / triple bluffs. Yawn. It doesn’t help that it features a really poor, intrusive soundtrack by Ernst Meinrath, which fails miserably to ratchet up the tension and instead forces the entire film to appear amateurish.

Frustratingly, you feel there is so much potential wasted in The Task. The snap-shot pre-game character interviews are very good – “My favourite book is Okay magazine” – but sadly whacked in at unnecessary places that really disturb the flow of the film. Some of the scenes could’ve been terrifying, but Orwell’s direction fails to capture the terror effectively. The Task also has a lot to say about reality TV and greed and the nature of fear, and it could have been cunningly cynical but never quite snatches the right tone to make it work.

The Task is fundamentally flawed from the top down – the idea / premise is a solid, if unoriginal one, but so packed with problems it’s impossible to love. This is disappointing considering it comes with the After Dark Originals tag, and smacks of failed potential. Not hideously bad, but just a lukewarm failure. Mildly enjoyable in places, but not worth your pennies.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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