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Something diabolical is taking place on the set of "The Task," a new reality show in which players compete for a cash prize by enduring a night in an abandoned prison and completing a series of creepy tasks designed for maximum terror. As six college students explore, things start to go amiss. Locked in this decrepit, labyrinthine prison, the contestants and the production staff start to realize that the scary reality show they thought they were taping has become real horror.
As part of the After Dark Originals lineup of horror home video, The Task is a little derivative to bear the series' hallmark too boldly. But a lack of originality in its premise doesn't mean that this nifty little thriller can't deliver a few authentically spooky scares and a creepy atmosphere that makes for some giggly, gross-out good times. The setup has a batch of clichéd young characters shackled together and shuffling into an old abandoned prison, where they're condemned to spend the night as contestants in a reality-TV show. The producers explain that each challenger must complete an assigned task within the crumbling walls before the night is through. Their individual tasks are one part of the show, but if they also demonstrate teamwork and help each other out they stand to take home even more cash winnings. The first collective task is to make it into the warden's office, where they'll find the keys to unlock their chains. The office will also serve as home base, where each character's instructions will be delivered by a psychotic clown on a video monitor. The pompous production crew is controlling and observing from a mobile nerve center parked down the road. They've tricked out the sinister old building with hidden cameras and other devices to make the devilish tasks more frightening. If all this is starting to sound like a cross between the Saw franchise and one of those haunted-house reality shows on the Discovery Channel, that's kind of the point. As each character type starts off on his or her task (there's the gay guy, the brainy girl, the dumb blonde, the wannabe gangsta, etc.), the script takes special care to explain the sensational back story of a psychotic warden who took sadistic delight in having his murderous way with inmates while he was in charge. Instructions for each of the tasks that unfold in dark, decrepit corners of the prison such as "the hole," the execution chamber, and special rooms the warden set up as personal torture chambers are both elaborate and a little uninspired, especially considering that we've been here and done this before in other movies and reality-TV shows. Nevertheless, the clever use of camera angles that mimic those of the show-within-the-movie and the cutting between the contestants and the production crew keep the fear factor lively and tangible. It's no spoiler to say that the warden gets up to some of his old tricks when his ghost is tickled thusly. But is it really his ghost, or is it part of the TV crew's deception to keep the contestants on their toes? Saying too much more about that part of things would get into the area of giving too much away. To its credit and in a stab at genuine originality, The Task does save up a few big surprises for participants and observers on both sides of the video monitors--yours and theirs. --Ted Fry
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For the next 40 minutes, we're not seeing anything resembling true horror taking place. It's some of the tamest horror imaginable. I wouldn't even say it's written for teens- more like kids. It's *that* mild. It turns out, predictably, that the reality TV crew are staying in hidden camera rooms orchestrating/watching the entire way these teens are supposed to spend their time in this dark dreadful prison. Of course, you can probably guess- there's a real murderer on the loose that neither the teens or the TV crew are aware of, and he pops up on camera to make a surprise appearance every so often.
There's barely any horror while this murderer is walking around either. We see the murderer- he's big, bald and bulky but besides that, he's hardly what I'd call intimidating. He has several opportunities to kill teens but for some bizarre reason he hardly uses them. Instead he's more concerned making sneak appearances before quickly shying away from the overhead camera. This means we don't see much in the way of violence for the most part- the occasional stabbings, one teen being placed in a sticky fly-buzzing situation (hehe), other teens playing up to the reality TV role by revealing their biggest fears and having to face them (such as one vegetarian having to eat meat, another being trapped in a secluded area, and another receiving ass while being placed in an electric chair). It feels awkward how the teens reveal their biggest fears by way of an interview as the story rolls along too.
Everything about the killer seemed off to me. He should have played a bigger, more violent role. The twist at the end which I don't reveal isn't really a twist because we all saw it coming a mile away (and we all noticed the second twist as well- like I said I won't spoil it so let's just say you can't have one twist without the other). Taking forever to get going in the first half and doing a lousy job building memorable characters is one problem, but failing to deliver in the second half while avoiding creativity in the murders and violence with clichéd writing just really hurts this one. Only the one redheaded female teen was memorable because she was feisty and determined to run out of the building once it became apparent what was going on- the rest of the characters were forgettable. Skip.