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Case Number 21839: Small Claims Court

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The Task

Lionsgate // 2010 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // July 22nd, 2011

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker likes to whistle while he tasks.

The Charge

The audience isn't the only one watching.

The Case

A bunch of doofi are picked for a reality TV show, and they must endure a horrifying ordeal!

No, they don't have to be pretend to be in love with someone who was marginally famous before they were born.

No, they don't have to suck up to Donald Trump.

No, they don't have to go through public rehab.

No, they don't have to befriend a Kardashian.

Actually, when you think about it, their ordeal is a comparative breeze: spend the night locked in a haunted prison and perform scary tasks. They are watched and monitored by a crew of technicians and producers, and there's a cash prize for getting through the night and completing said scary tasks. Oh, and the scary tasks are meted out by a scary clown on a scary computer.

But right out of the gate, something goes amiss. One contestant is tasked with invoking the spirit of the evil and dead warden by reciting the "Our Father" backwards in the prison chapel. Even in crazy reality TV land, that seems a tad hardcore—isn't that how Satanists do their initiation rites?—but theology be damned.

And, of course, now the contestants are damned too.

The Task is such a generic thriller that, at this point, it's hard to call a film like this a "thriller" at all. I would think that the element of surprise would be one of the hallmarks of a thriller, but the whole business of people running around a dimly lit institution has been done so much, there are barely any genuine thrills left to wring out. The film also tosses out the tropes of undead evil presence and cameras recording the action "live," and just in case you've never seen one of these before, offers the contestants proclaiming their "greatest fears" before essaying challenges that involve—you guessed it—those self-same fears. The biggest mystery is which stock character will die first: the gay guy, the black guy, or the irritating smart girl?

The film does have a few interesting ideas dancing around the edges, mainly about how jaded we've all become thanks to the freak show of reality TV, but these are only briefly touched on. There's a nice late-game twist and then a counter twist; you might or might not see one or both of these coming. There are some creepy moments strewn throughout, and the cast—mainly Brits playing Americans—works hard to convince us that these characters are fresh out of the box rather than the requisites for all films of this kind.

The Task is from Lionsgate's After Dark Originals line of low-budget horror films. A recent-vintage production, it looks just fine. Supplements consist of a fairly mundane "Behind the Scenes" featurette in which the actors talk about their characters, along with the obligatory trailer.

The Verdict

The Task isn't a bad film, just uninspired and strictly by-the-numbers. A few nice scares and plot twists notwithstanding, The Task, too often, feels like déjà vu all over again.

I'd make a judgment, but it would just be redundant.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror
• Suspense
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette
• Trailer


• IMDb

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