As "The Task" began, it instantly appealed to my sensibilities with a winning premise. Setting a horror movie within the confines of an abandoned prison during a reality game show shoot--how can you go wrong? If you've ever seen the television shows where contestants vie for cash prizes by braving scary (and oftentimes manufactured) horrors, you know that there is great material to be mined. MTV's "Fear" is a good comparison point. "The Task," however, seems not to know exactly what to do with this idea and while attempting to be a twisty thriller misses some of the basics. Fundamentally, the movie (after an expected set-up and character introduction) absolutely fails to even simulate interesting television. If the program being shot is supposed to be creepy and/or scary, it is really benign and utterly familiar. Without the game show providing any chills, laughs, or excitement, we're left with tedium. Think I'm overstating the case--here are two random tasks: One contestant goes to the chapel and has to have the lights off for one minute, another contestant has to eat meat when she's a vegetarian. Riveting and horrifying, huh? Who wouldn't watch that show?
Of course, there is more than meets the eye is this rather tepid horror entry. A mysterious stranger starts to haunt the prison. Is it the spirit of the maniacal ex-warden? Is is a trick from the production company? While the movie hopes to keep you guessing, it lacks the real cleverness or continuity to pull things off. The actors are all fine considering the material, but the screenplay lacks the punch and definition to really distinguish the movie as anything other than a missed opportunity. There are some supposed twists and surprises, it all feels rather cobbled together and uninspired. By the end, I really didn't care much one way or the other.
Perhaps all could have been forgiven had the picture provided anything resembling scares. As each person meets the strange apparition, the resolutions are blunt and to-the-point with little tension being earned or scares being included. Those looking for big frightening moments or gore will be left stranded. And while, I don't necessarily think every film has to be a gorefest--this one genuinely needed to be creepier and more unsettling. A great idea wasted, it made me think of other films that did it better. If you like the premise, try "My Little Eye" about a Big Brother experience gone awry. It's not perfect either, and its tension is more psychologically derived, but it get much closer to the spirit I had hoped for here. About 1 1/2 stars. I'm feeling nice, so I'll round up. KGHarris, 10/11.