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Featured DVD Review: The Task

July 24th, 2011

The Task - Buy from Amazon

The Task is the fourth low-budget horror movie I've reviewed this weekend. That's a lot for any one genre and there's a chance burnout will occur. Then again, this is arguably the most common genre on the home market, so one of the issues each film has to deal with is the sheer amount of direct competition. Does this film have what it takes to stand out? Or will it just fade into the crowd?

The Movie

In the beginning of the film, we witness a kidnapping. Several men in clown masks abduct a man from the street and force him into the back of a van, which contains several other victims. However, he wasn't chosen at random; in fact, he auditioned for this. All of the "victims" are contestants in a radical Reality TV game show. After introductions for each of their characters (Shoe, the diva; Randall, the flaming gay guy; Toni, the genius; Stanton and Angel, a brother and sister pair from England; Dixon, the tough guy (and the one we witnessed being kidnapped); and one more contestant) they are offered a chance at $20,000, or they can go home. Only one of them, the unnamed one, refuses their offer and instead goes home.

The challenge involves spending the night in an abandoned prison where each contestant will have to perform a task, with the help of their teammate. Those that complete their task and make it all the way through the night will win a share of the prize money, but if everyone stays, they all win a bonus. Before they are given their tasks they are told one last thing. The warden of Pennyville State Prison, Warden Harvis, illegally executed 85 of his prisoners as a cost saving measure. However, he was caught, convicted, and was the last person executed there. It is said he still haunts the prison, along with the souls of some of the wrongfully executed prisoners.

The first task is assigned to Randall, who has to walk, alone and in near total darkness, to the prison chapel and recite the Lord's Prayer, backwards, and then sit in the dark for a minute while creepy sound effects play. At least that's what the reality TV show crew had planned for him. It seems the prayer has awakened Warden Harvis and the Warden has something else in store for our six contestants, and any of the TV crew who wander into his prison.

Like I previously stated, this is the fourth low-budget horror film I've reviewed this week, and much of what I've previously written can be applied here. The bottom line is the film is good, but not great, while a lot of its strengths and weaknesses are shared by the other horror films that I reviewed. For instance, the film suffers from a lot of Déjà vu. A horror film set in a haunted prison is hardly unique, nor is the Reality TV angle. Too many of the surprise twists were a little obvious, which compounded the problem with the number of genre clichés in the movie. This includes some of the minor twists early on (for instance, the guy who refused to be on the show was a plant). It also includes the ending. The ending wasn't satisfying and felt rushed and cheap. (The double-twist was far too predictable, and it meant the viewers are cheated out of several scares by having one big, but in the end, anti-climactic event.)

On the other hand, the acting is far better than expected, even if many of the characters were too shallow in their development. The atmosphere is excellent and filmmakers made full use of the location and the reliance on limited camera angles one would expect on a Reality TV show. However, while the movie does build tension quite well, there are not enough actual scares. (And if you are a gorehound, you will be disappointed.) There are a few too many flaws and this prevents The Task from being a great film, but there's more than enough that works that it is worth checking out.

(On a side note, I called Randall the flaming gay guy in the plot description, because that's really the extent of his character development. Like I said, this is one of the flaws of the film, poorly developed characters.)

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD is a five-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, which is mostly the cast talking about their characters and why they wanted to be in the movie. As a special feature it is worth checking out. As the only special feature, it's disappointing.

The Verdict

Low-budget horror films are a lot like Romantic Comedies. Fans of both genres understand that there are a host of clichés filmmakers draw from and that avoiding them is nearly impossible. Because of that, I think most fans of the genre will be forgiving of the faults of The Task, because while it is not unique, it is skillfully executed and that helps it rise above the competition. The DVD has almost nothing in terms of extras, but I still think it is a solid rental, leaning towards a purchase.


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