Tag Ghosts

Fog, The (2005)

The Fog (2005)

From The Makers Of “Halloween”

One hundred years ago off the coast of Antonio Bay, a ship full of lepers was betrayed by the town’s founding fathers and burned, killing everyone aboard. Now in the town’s centennial celebration, the ghosts of the murdered victims return to the town for revenge on the descendants and killing anyone else who stands in their path.

 

Why? Just why? I could quite easily end my review there and I’d be happy knowing that I had devoted as little time of my life as possible on one of the most wretched remakes I’ve ever seen, perhaps the worst of the bunch. Its got some tough company to beat with the likes of the Prom Night remake but I think The Fog just beats them out simply because it is somehow manages to screw up the rather generic material of the original in impossible ways. Let’s face it: John Carpenter’s original 1980′s chiller has its problems and isn’t perfect but it’s a terrific ghost story with a really creepy atmosphere and some spooky effects to boot. However it was one of few early films of his that had room for improvements (you can’t tell me Halloween could have been improved!). I mean there were plot holes, unexplained happenings for the sake of cool effects and it was overly talky during the middle stretch of the film before the fog finally rolled into town in the finale.

So why not gut everything that worked back then and replace it with superficial teenage characters and a bonanza of completely un-scary CGI effects? Well that’s what Mr Wainright and co have done with The Fog. The basic story itself is a simple one of revenge and there’s little change here from that of the original. But that’s why the story worked so well before – the simplicity of it. There weren’t dozens of plot twists, overly-developed characters (though I always thought there were a few too many holed up in the church in the finale) and a necessity to challenge the audience. It was just a ghost story, pure and simple. It had one direction that it wanted to go and went there without deviation or hesitation. But now the story is home to complicated characters and ridiculous plot twists, adding unnecessary layers to a film who’s strength was it’s shunning of these elements.

The characters that Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins both played in the original have been ‘watered’ down to generic hunky boyfriend and hot blonde girlfriend with a romantic back story just in case things weren’t complicated enough with vengeful ghosts. You won’t give a rat’s ass about them so that’s even worse news for the rest of the cast, an assortment of clichéd sidekicks, barking mad old men and sinister mayors. Now there is even a weird sub-plot about one of the main characters being a reincarnation of one of the original victims (or something….I have no idea what was going on).Tom Welling and Maggie Grace have blatantly been cast for their facial features in an attempt to appeal to the teenage market. The only ‘old hand’ on show is Selma Blair and, at 32, she’s not exactly pushing it.

As with the original, this really treads water in the middle section because the fog isn’t anywhere to be seen and there’s no sign of the ghosts. Maybe that’s a good thing though. The main scare factor from the original was, for me, the fog itself. Dry ice with a few strobe lights inside has never looked scarier. I mean when that stuff crept in, you knew there was something lurking around inside – it was just too thick to see through. Although you never got a proper look at the undead sailors in the original, they were still simply guys with a bit of make-up on and they sported some kick ass weapons (I’ll never forget the brutal assault on the three guys in the boat at the beginning of the original). But what do we get here? CGI fog for the most which has zero effect, considering you can tell a lot of the work is clearly blue screen. It’s too gimmicky, moving around into numerous shapes and sizes but without any sort of creeping menace. The ghosts are mainly CGI spooks too which fly freely in the air and have no real menace to them. Without a ‘physical’ presence in the film to commit their dastardly acts, you never once get the sense that these are scares spectres.

Though John Carpenter was on board as a co-producer, it’s clear that he had little to no input in the final product (or at least I hope he didn’t!). One of the overwhelming issues with The Fog is purely its lack of any sort of ghostly atmosphere. There’s no impending sense of doom, no form of slow-burn suspense and the ‘scares’ are so in your face, they’re telegraphed a few minutes in advance. This is about as manufactured a horror film as they go nowadays – all CGI style without the substance.

 

I’m the first to admit that some of the recent remakes have been pretty good updates: Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes and even the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (c’mon it wasn’t that bad). However this is not going to be joining the crew. I’ve seen scarier steam clouds coming from boiling kettles than the fog here. The Fog is one of the worst remakes of all time and something that should have been sunk with the lepers who came back for revenge.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Wind Chill (2007)

Wind-Chill-2007

There Are Worse Things Than Dying

A girl seeking a ride home from college for the holidays answers a message from an on-campus notice board offering a lift to anyone going to Delaware. She meets the guy and together they set off for home. On the way, he takes a detour to a supposed short-cut where the car skids off the road to avoid an oncoming car. Stuck in the car in the middle of nowhere, trapped in a snow drift and with the temperature dropping quickly, they soon realise that they aren’t alone when they see sinister figures moving around in the snow.

 

In a day and age of torture porn flicks and teen horrors as snappily edited as a music video, Wind Chill is an old school throwback to a more psychological era of horror when it wasn’t about how many people are killed off, it wasn’t about how gory or brutal it could be and it wasn’t about how much money you could throw at special effects – it was about crafting a good story through a methodical build-up and creating suspense and tension. Is this change of pace a good thing though? I’m up for watching any horror film but modern audiences are too programmed in to fast, flashy and ultimately shallow films that they’ll just think this is too slow?

It takes some time in setting up the characters and the eventual situation but it’s for the better. As this is only a small cast (literally the whole screen time is devoted to the two main characters), we need to associate with them because they have to carry the film. Emily Blunt is one of those actresses who can deliver the goods and has one of those faces where you recognise her from a lot of films but can’t actually name many of them. It doesn’t hurt that she’s attractive as hell either but she puts in a good shift.

Ashton Holmes is the young man who is driving with her and puts in a great performance too. You know there’s something slightly offbeat about him to start with and his occasional revealing that he knows a little too much about her. Does he have ulterior motives for a taking a detour like being an obsessive stalker or he just an oddball who wants a friend? To be fair though, if Emily Blunt wanted a ride halfway across America and I was driving, I’d take a detour or two to make the trip a little longer.

The two play off each other excellently, with varying degrees of mistrust at first and then affection later on. It’s this part of the film that is the most entertaining – I can’t say gripping because it was hardly edge-of-the-seat stuff but at least it keeps interested. Given the film is light on pretty much everything else, the actors need to carry the film themselves and they do a great job of it. Surprisingly, neither character is given a name in the film. It’s the first half of the film that suggests we’re going to get a psycho-thriller where the driver will make a move at some point and attempt to harm or abuse the girl but he doesn’t. Instead, the car crashes, becomes stranded and then we shift over to the ghosts and haunted road portion of the film which doesn’t work as well.

Snow is a grossly under-used tool for creating atmosphere. There’s just something inherently creepy about it especially when scenes are filmed at night. There’s a weird mix of natural light, shadows and shapes that you just can’t create in a studio or with special effects. This bleak setting is perfect for having ghosts lurk around. And not only does snow create a great atmosphere but it adds a secondary threat because the temperatures have plummeted and if the ghosts don’t get the characters, the cold will.

Unfortunately apart from the odd blow of the wind across the snowy road, there are not a lot of scares to be found. The set up takes its time and you hope it’ll be worth it in the end but it isn’t. Keeping the bulk of the film confined to the car means that the film gets quite repetitive. I mean there’s only so much you can do with two people in a car and the film uses all of its lives up early in this respect. Also keeping the action confined to the car for a lot of the film means that you can see scares coming a mile away – literally – as you watch ghosts and other shapes walking around in the snow. The script twists all over the place at this point too, leading up to a highly unsatisfactory ending that proves the writers were just not interested – they write a lousy ending and can’t even be bothered to name their characters. Tsh!

 

Wind Chill has arguably been made about thirty years too late. You can’t fault anyone in here for trying but it just seems a little out of place sitting alongside the torture porn era. I’m all for more of this type of film because it’s a nice change of pace, albeit too slow a pace. The writers just make sure that the temperature is turned up a bit next time to avoid the film freezing in its tracks.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Outpost (2008)

Outpost (2008)

You can’t kill what’s already dead

In war-torn Eastern Europe, a team of mercenaries is hired to protect a mysterious businessman on a journey into no-man’s land. He leads them to an old military outpost used by the Germans during WWII. Here they experimented on their own soldiers in a series of bloody and gruesome tests based on some of Einstein’s theories. Soon the mercenaries realise that they have unwittingly awakened a terror that will turn their mission from protection to survival as a mysterious enemy emerges from the outpost.

 

There should be more horror films about Nazis. They are a criminally underused enemy, if somewhat clichéd to use. The list of horror films with Nazi soldiers is pretty slim but each one has their own pluses. Shock Waves back in the 70s dealt with zombie Nazis. We had The Keep in the 80s which opted for a more paranormal approach. More modern efforts include The Bunker and Deathwatch, both not exceptionally great films but showed that giving history’s most infamous villains supernatural powers is one way to create a kick ass horror film if done in the right manner. Outpost doesn’t exactly prove that point 100% but it makes a damn good effort of it.

The atmosphere in Outpost is second to none. Right from the start you know this film isn’t going to take any prisoners of war with its bleak setting. The colouring in the film has been bleached and saturated, giving it an almost dead appearance. The only colours you’re going to see here are grey and red! The bunker is the main setting for most of the film and as soon as the mercenaries head down there, you’ll be gasping for the fresh air of the surface. This is one claustrophobic place you wouldn’t want to get stuck in with murderous Nazi ghosts lurking. It’s superbly lit meaning there’s always just enough light to see around but not enough to provide sanctuary for the mercenaries. Hiding in every dark corner, in every pitch black corridor and behind every unopened door you really get the sense that they’re being watched and stalked from the moment they set foot inside.

I like the fact that this is a group of mercenaries, not a bunch of whiny teenagers who have stumbled upon the bunker by mistake. Having the mercenaries as the heroes makes the enemy seem all that more realistic and deadly. This is a trained group of armed men who have gone through a lot together yet have never faced anything like this. Think of Predator and the way Arnie and his team equip themselves to deal with their threat. Realism is the key to success here because they don’t do anything stupid. Apart from Ray Stevenson, none of the other mercenaries do much to distinguish themselves from one another. This is a bit of a shame given the room that the film gives to characters. Ray Stevenson is a decent actor who found his fame on Rome and he’s well suited to the role of the gruff commanding officer.

Pacing is a big problem though. There’s a massive build up throughout the film – each discovery or revelation about the outpost adding more and more tension. Unfortunately this goes on for a little too long and it seems like the mercenaries have been exploring the bunker forever. There is not a lot of meat after their initial discovery and it does drag a bit. It does feel like an eternity has passed when the enemy first shows up. But when they do, the film goes all out to impress and quickly you’ve engrossed once again. The first sight of the undead soldiers standing on the hill, shrouded in fog and illuminated by some ghostly light reminds me of the original The Fog. It’s a chilling moment which sends the spine into overdrive.

From here on the film builds to a crescendo that it clearly will never reach and the ending is somewhat unsatisfying, given that the mercenaries have already proved that the Nazis can’t be killed. The story itself is solid and based on fact. The Nazis were known to dabble in the occult – anything to give them the edge in the war. I don’t want to reveal too much about the film as part of the fun and excitement is finding out what happened in the bunker – needless to say that it’s all very plausible. The Nazis look pretty damned good too although the sight of a battalion of crack SS troops marching over the hill towards you wouldn’t exactly need much to make it look scary. And above all, the film has a real mean streak to it just to give modern fans of things like Hostel something to get their teeth into. These Nazis are pretty extreme in their methods of execution, torturing one poor fellow before stabbing him in the eyes. Their silent and stealthy approach leads to some scary moments (note when digging a trench – make sure you check there are no undead Nazi soldiers buried in the soil).

 

Outpost is a thrilling combination of the atmosphere of The Fog, the style of Predator and the gritty approach of Dog Soldiers. It’s one of the best horror films I can recall in the last few years. Tense, chilling and downright scary at times, proving correct the age old myth that gore and extreme violence are no substitute for good old fashioned atmosphere.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Below (2002)

Below (2002)

Six hundred feet beneath the surface terror runs deep

It’s World War II and the U.S.S. Tiger Shark, an American submarine, picks up three survivors from a torpedoed British hospital ship in German-infested waters. However as soon as the three are brought on board, supernatural events begin to transpire aboard the sub which begins to affect the morale and the sanity of those on board.

 

David Twohy’s follow up effort to his break-through success of Pitch Black, Below has all of the ingredients of a good, solid ghost story. It’s got a creepy, claustrophobic setting, it’s got some great cinematography inside the sub and it’s got some decent performances from a weary-looking cast who look like they’ve been out at sea for a long time. Unfortunately the film is bogged down by a lengthy running time and the fact that not a lot does actually happen after a decent build up. Talk about wasting hard work! The film was pulled from a major release and was only trickled into a handful of theatres which is a bit of a shame because it’s a hell of a lot better than 80% of the trash that gets the works.

Below plays out a lot like a typical submarine thriller at first. There’s a reason for the sub to remain hidden under the water (a circling German ship being the reason here). There’s a weary crew, fed up of lurking out at sea and eager to get home. There’s conflict between some of the crew. There’s hidden secrets. The film switches into ghost made about a third of the way through with the ship becoming less of a tool of war and more of a tomb of war. Submarines are a great setting for thrillers or horrors. If you’re however far underwater and there’s a problem with the sub, then you’re stuck. You’ve got a limited supply of air and obviously can’t just step out of the submarine for a breather. The cramped, confined setting is perfect for unleashing all manner of mayhem because there’s no escape. Subs are their own mini-worlds for as long as they’re underwater. David Twohy manages to craft a unique, almost ethereal world. Shadows come to life. Light is as valuable as air. And around every corner, inside every room or cupboard could lurk something unpleasant.

The unfortunate thing here is that unpleasant things don’t lurk inside every room or cupboard. There’s very little here to get worked up about. Just when you think things are about to get good with sightings of ghosts or eerie sounds bashing into the hull, the film takes a few steps back and bores you with more chatter amongst the crew. The sightings and sounds of possible otherworldly encounters are fleeting. Have you imagined them or did you just see something flash across the screen? A little more instead of a little less would have been welcome here. Instead you think you get a taste of what is to come later in the film but you don’t. It’s a total let down and the film fizzles when it should be lighting up.

Twohy does a hell of a lot right though. There’s an effective scene in which a character observes himself in a mirror but the movements don’t quite match those of his own. There’s also a suspenseful scene set inside a half-submerged room where some of the crew have swam outside to try and repair damage and one of them spots something before disappearing. It’s scenes like these that make you wish the rest of the film was as good. It doesn’t resort to cheap gore or cheap scares to entertain and relies on older techniques to chill the viewer as opposed to truly make them jump. This came out a few months before the bigger budgeted drivel that was Ghost Ship and seems to have been washed underneath its wake. It’s a pity because whilst neither film is great, Below does manage to create an atmosphere that Ghost Ship could only dream of for a fraction of the price.

Below also scores points with a solid cast. There are no major names in here which is good because there are some good actors on show like Bruce Greenwood and it also means that all bets are off as far as survivors go. You don’t know who is going to make it out and who isn’t.

 

Below is all style over substance. If only as much effort had gone into some more ghosts and a decent pay off instead of how to frame another superb shot, then you’d be looking at a great low budget chiller to feast upon. Below had potential but failed to live up to its early promise.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007)

Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007)

It’s been six years since Sara Wolfe escaped from Hill House and no one believed her version of the events surrounding the massacre of the other guests. Even her own sister, Ariel, ignored her and refused to return her calls. But, when Sara seemingly commits suicide, Ariel heads over to her apartment to try and piece together what happened. Here she encounters Dr Hammer, a college professor who says Sara was working with him to locate the Baphomet Idol and they believed it to be located in the house. But the doctor is not the only person looking for the artefact and a rival and his armed gang kidnap Ariel and her boyfriend and force them to go the house to look for it. With the doctor and a party of his own already at the house, the groups soon discover that the house is alive and locks them all inside for a night they will never forget.

 

I’m got a bit of a soft spot for the remake of The House on Haunted Hill. It’s not a great film and is very much the living proof of style over substance. But there was a genuinely spooky atmosphere to it, a script full of twists and turns and a solid cast of actors (can’t go wrong with a bit of Geoffrey Rush hamming it up) to end up with a film that greatly blew away my meagre expectations. Fast forward a few years and it seems that no one has really learnt their lesson, offering up a sequel which is very much style over substance – only this time upping the gore and taking away the script and the solid cast of actors. What you get is the film that would have been made six to eight years ago had the audience of that time been as undemanding as today’s audience (get it?).

I guess there’s not a lot you can really do with a haunted house film. It’s not like the house can actually move so you’ve got to get the people into the house. The set up is mercifully brief. All you really need to know is that most of the main characters have some links/relationships with one another and the ones who don’t (i.e. the hired goons armed with guns) are there to make up the numbers and give us the early body count numbers. The script is lousy in all honesty but apart from some ear-splitting moments of dialogue and some ridiculous decision-making on behalf of the characters, there’s not a lot going to offend anyone. The whole story about the Baphomet Idol does more harm than good too. The ghosts could have remained as they were from the original – the tormented spirits of the victims of Dr Vannacutt. But the new take on the story is the only reason the characters have for going into the house so I guess that’s why it’s been put here.

Speaking of Dr Vannacutt, he does return here and he’s as malicious as ever. Credit should go to Jeffrey Combs as  he manages to convey so much hate, perversion and general sadism for a character who doesn’t say an awful lot (in fact I’m hard pressed to remember him speaking at all). The rest of the cast do alright I guess. Amanda Righetti struts around wearing a glorious white tank top and is frequently getting wet (being drenched in the rain, thrown into a hydrotherapy pool and culminating in a fight in the showers!) so no complaints there. Erik Palladino grates badly as the rival looking for the Idol but it’s down to the script giving him clunking speeches and “boo me, I’m the bad guy” lines aplenty.

The others in the cast round off the stock characters: slutty girl, comic relief and expert. And not forgetting the armed gang who consist of a black guy (see ya later), a lesbian (who gets seduced by naked ghosts to give us the T&A quota for the film) and some rough English-speaking guys who sound like they have wandered off the set of a new Guy Ritchie movie.

Visually, it’s almost identical to the remake. As well as using the same sets, the damp set of the basement and the badly lit underground corridors revamp the atmosphere and actually manages to crank up the tension and atmosphere way more than it has any right to do. Remember this is a sequel shot on a lower budget. Expect plenty of the usual indulgence of quick snappy editing and frenetic camerawork. The ghosts look as freaky as ever before. The instruments of torture strewn around the house look as uninviting as they did in the original. Even the gore quotient is high. A character has their face sliced off, another one has their brain removed and another is dragged thrown a hole in a wall. There’s plenty more in store and it’s a good splatter ride if you like that sort of thing. At a thin eighty-one minutes long, the action gets going early on and the pacing is decent enough to avoid spells of boredom.

 

Return to House on Haunted Hill is about a decent a sequel as you’d expect nowadays. Serving only as a pointless remake of a remake, it offers up genre goods to satisfy those with weaker demands. If you liked the remake then be sure to check this out because it doesn’t do a bad job of recreating the atmosphere. We’ve just we’ve been there, done that and put the house up for sale when we’ve finished.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Gravedancers, The (2006)

The Gravedancers (2006)

Unrest In Peace

After the death of a close friend, Harris, Kira and Sid reunite at the graveyard for a final farewell which soon turns into a night of heavy drinking. However after reading a warning on a gravestone and dancing on the graves of those resting nearby, they soon become haunted by three very angry and vengeful ghosts: a violent rapist, a child pyromaniac and a pianist who was murdered with an axe. They turn to a paranormal investigator who informs them that they must rid themselves of the curse before the next full moon or they will be killed.

 

I must say I’m a big fan of this film. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a horror film based around ghosts. I tend to go for the splatter and gore flicks which guarantee the schlock goods. It was a nice change of pace to sit down and watch a film that didn’t have a guy in a mask or a genetically enhanced monster killing people. The Gravedancers channels the spirit of the likes of Poltergeist, The Entity and The Haunting to create a reasonably atmospheric, tense and edgy affair which won’t send pulses racing too much but delivers effective jolts of fear when required. I get the feeling that the budget was just about right for this one – too much more money and the special effects would have taken centre stage but more on that later. But it’s been a while since I saw a non-Japanese ghost story and it’s nice to see that they can still make them when they want to in this era of torture porn films.

The Gravedancers takes its cue from the classic ghost stories of the past, playing up things like sound to get across its scares. I don’t scare very easily anymore as I’ve been totally de-sensitized with horror films to the degree that I can read a lot of scares before they happen. However the beauty of this film is that, although the scares are predictable enough, it’s the build-up which works brilliantly. In one scene, one of the characters is in the house on their own and hears the piano playing in the other room. Slowly he walks through the house until he reaches the room, opens the door and the piano suddenly stops playing. It’s almost as if you can sense the ghost present in the room with him as he checks the room out. The feeling of fear is genuine as you know something is there and watching him but you can’t see it. There are other scenes like this scattered throughout the film where you can literally feel the presence of the ghosts. It’s no surprise that once the ghosts start to appear in traditional form that the film loses some of its impact.

There are elements of J-horror borrowed here including a freaky long-haired ghost crawling across a bed and the menacing axe-wielding piano-playing ghost who floats above the ground, moves around like her neck is broken and is generally a rather unsettling thing to look at. At no point does the film turn into an out-and-out splatter fest which I guess is one of the reasons why this isn’t as appreciated as it should be. If there is one thing that spoils this film, it’s the finale and ending. What had been a rather effective ghost story turns into a silly special effects-driven mess like some cheap The Haunting remake wannabe as all manner of giant floating heads and hands chase the survivors through a large mansion. I don’t know why they couldn’t have kept it low key like the rest of the film and it really feels like they didn’t know how to end it properly so just threw whatever they could out there.

It’s good to see a film with adult actors in it taking the lead roles. Too many times have we seen teenagers be the main focus of these horror films so it’s refreshing to see a group of adults be the ones to take their turn in peril. It works better too because there’s no silly teenage plots to worry about (like meddling siblings, jocks and high school shenanigans, falling in love for the first time, etc) and instead the film can focus on proper adult relationships to build the characters around.

The dynamic between the main trio are pretty believable even if the acting isn’t up there to match. I just can’t shake Dominic Purcell’s character of Lincoln Burrows on Prison Break every time I see him on the screen and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. You watch him and all you can see is that character. It’s no disrespect to Purcell’s ability as an actor but he needs to pick roles which go against type a little so that he isn’t just remembered as that guy from Prison Break. The rest of the cast do well in their roles and French actor Tchéky Karyo is on to provide a little comic relief as the ghost-busting paranormal investigator who hopes to solve their problem.

 

The Gravedancers is a solid, tight and effective ghost story which may be a little slow-paced for those weaned on flashy MTV-style horror films but delivers more scares than a dozen rehashes of My Bloody Valentine ever could. We don’t get to see nearly half as many ghost stories as we should do because they’re not fashionable enough but do yourselves a favour and check out The Gravedancers to show that there is a demand for serious, non-splatter, non-torture porn films.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Task, The (2011)

The Task (2011)

The audience isn’t the only one watching

‘The Task’ is a new reality TV show in which contestants must complete terrifying missions in an abandoned jail if they wish to claim the substantial prize on offer. Six young students are the first group to compete for the cash but they are unaware that the jail still harbours the spirit of the murderous warden who used to torture and kill the inmates before being executed.
Horror films set around reality TV are nothing new. Heck, they’ve been on the go for years since the dawn of Big Brother and these daft reality celebrity shows clogging up our televisions. But they’ve run their course, as the latest couple of series of Big Brother in the UK have shown with dwindling audiences and lack of mainstream media interest. So to see The Task released in 2011 (with a couple of reality-style horrors released in 2002 with Halloween: Resurrection and My Little Eye) seems to me to be the result of a distinct lack of originality and risk-taking in the genre at the moment. Why bother creating a new story when you can just wheel out some tried-and-tested plot?

This isn’t a knock directly at The Task – it’s a knock at the genre in general at the moment. The straight-to-DVD series of After Dark ‘Originals’ (of which The Task is a part of) have been largely forgettable teen horrors, pimped up a little with fancy covers and made to sound like the bees knees of cutting edge scare material when really they’ve been highly derivative and largely non-descript. I appreciate the sentiment behind giving new talent the chance to prove what they can do and get their product out there to a wider audience. But if these are the future of horror, we’re in for a barren couple of years.

The Task is competently made but is nothing more than by-the-numbers teen horror. Everything about it screams pedestrian from the plot, to the characters, to the setting, the lack of any sort of tension or atmosphere and modern-day reliance on flashy editing. It’s the embodiment of a film which will no doubt keep you interested for its running time but is immediately forgettable straight afterwards.

Director Alex Orwell is no doubt pleased that his film has made it onto DVD but he should at least learn how to build suspense or create some sort of an atmosphere. I mean, the setting is decent enough but how many times are we going to see horror films set inside abandoned jails, asylums or other kooky places with sinister histories? It’s just not fun to watch a group of twenty-somethings walk around dark corridors and jail cells for the umpteenth time, talking to each other and generally being irritating to the audience. Are we supposed to care for this bunch of self-obsessed idiots? After all, they’re all in it for the fame and the money. Forget doing hard work, let’s all just take the easy way out and do reality TV! The usual caricatures are here including the goth girl, the dumb blonde, etc. Throw in some expendable crew members from the company running the show and you’ve got the recipe for a predictable ride.

It’s a good hour into the proceedings by the time things start to get interesting and remotely exciting and that’s a bit of a overstatement. The idea of each character having to do tasks seems to have come straight out of the Saw films complete with a Jigsaw-style host (a guy in some clown make-up explains what the characters need to do). But then you’ve also got helpings of The House on Haunted Hill thrown in there too, with the TV crew having devised all manner of weird and wonderful surprises for the contestants in a bid to throw them off – there’s even a ghost walking around the corridors caught on camera. Only this time Jeffrey Combs is nowhere to be seen.

The first couple of tasks each character has to do are hardly nerve-shattering and I’m sure if I had been watching this TV show, I’d have turned over long before the better ones later on. Things do pick up slightly once the vengeful warden has made his presence felt but we’re never really sure of what he is or why he’s there. And if you think his arrival will signal the start of the gore, then you’ll be sorely disappointed too. I’m not quite sure why the film’s certificate is so high (it’s an 18 in the UK) because from what I remember, the film is bloodless. Problems are confounded with a script which messes around with too many ideas, all pulling in different directions and inevitably ends up tearing the film apart. The case in point being the overblown finale which makes no sense and comes right out of leftfield. Either the production ran out of cash or the writers ran out of ideas. You make the call.

 

The Task takes a long time to get where it’s supposed to be going and even then you’re not really sure where you’ve ended up. The only thing you realise is that you’ve been there before – many times. It’s deja vu all over again.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆