There’s nothing that can drive joyful motivation and uninhibited rage quite like a nice big Christmas bonus at the end of the year. The spread of cheer can come to a quick halt when the bonus in desire is held to a more nefarious workplace standard. The terms “cut-throat” and “battle to the death” are not exactly holiday positives, but in most realities they are unfortunate seasonal states.
Directed by Charles Hood (Play By Play) and written by Paul Soter (Super Troopers), the second December installment of Blumhouse and Hulu’s exclusive Into The Dark holiday horror anthology series, A Nasty Piece of Work, eliminates Christmas competition with a little cannon fodder and a handful of careful objectives.
“A Nasty Piece Of Work edges impersonal competition and internal dilemmas with a steady hand in cold-hearted chaos and red-blooded rage.”
Starring Kyle Howard (My Boys), Dustin Milligan (Schitt’s Creek), Angela Sarafyan (Westworld), Julian Sands (What/If), Molly Hagen (Sully) and Natalie Hall (Only the Brave) “follows a mid-level employee at a large company who finds out he’s not getting the Christmas bonus or promotion he was expecting. But then his boss invites him over for dinner with a proposal for how he can climb the corporate ladder… by beating his professional rival in a violent competition.
Faced with the traditional feelings of stress and desperation, the episode’s protagonist, Ted, finds himself in an unusual corporate ladder ascension built on ill-will, secrets, and good old fashioned murder. A Nasty Piece of Work effectively comes up with a few clerical key rules, but ultimate breaks a minor one in the process. We won’t hold that against it, unless it comes down to a round of sudden death…
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Executing a fluid and inspired horror narrative must be as extensive and intense as squeezing a Christmas bonus out of the boss. In order to pull off the move of the year, filmmakers and corporate employees alike must practice the perfect balance of initiative and aspiration. Acknowledging that every factor goes into passing or failing the genre test, from the title card to the overall theme, A Nasty Piece Of Work does not hold anything back. Occupational goals are clear, the characters are thoroughly fleshed out, and the bonus of some high-stakes gameplay makes for one heck of an interesting office Christmas party.
While Ted is trying hopelessly to prove himself to his boss, none of his good deeds shine in a naughty world. When Christmas bonuses are suspended as part of a shared sacrifice, Ted’s rage and frustrations are palpable. The ‘Jelly of the Month Club’ is not enough for all of his individual sacrifice, empathizing his motivations and cause to succeed. Momentum builds with every cringey social interaction, shock and surprise, and with each twist made out of yuletide operation. A Nasty Piece Of Work edges impersonal competition and internal dilemmas with a steady hand in cold-hearted chaos and red-blooded rage.
It doesn’t go without saying that some of the best narratives and styles are derived from the inspiration of previous works. Adapting some of the best aspects of contemporary thrillers, A Nasty Piece Of Work is a daring cocktail of Ready Or Not, Would You Rather, Mayhem, and You’re Next. The episode is a lush, tense, and dangerous gift to the Into The Dark series, further promoting fresh storytelling and relevant perspectives.
The dialogue, being one of the strongest standout elements, is wildly witty and crafty, elevating the performances of Julian Sands and Molly Hagen to the best of their intentionally over-dramatic roles. In its smart efforts to pit rising to the occasion against raising hell, A Nasty Piece Of Work maintains a fun and unique stance in the genre’s take on competition and personal gain.
Go For The Jugular
A few of the things that A Nasty Piece Of Work does well coincides with the rules for success, but one of the points that it hits also happens to be one of the episode’s weakest points. The mishaps, actions, and resulting gore are a little too far-fetched. The impossible perseverance of one character in particular is enough to draw one out of the film entirely and question the writing a little too harshly. Given this is the horror genre and the nature of the impossible should be forgiven, A Nasty Piece Of Work might go for the jugular with a heavy, distracting hand.
Aside from the odd survival, some of the scenes and sequencing of events in A Nasty Piece Of Work become a little repetitive over the course of the competition. Whether by design and intention, the constant back and forth can be jarring at certain points. Viewers might find themselves laughing at some of the duplicate gags or rolling their eyes at them. However, the cuts of tension and elements of mystery do keep viewers on their toes from start to finish. It may be a nasty piece of work, but it is a clever one at that.
Never Take Your Eye Off The Underdog
In the essence of a classic thriller, A Nasty Piece Of Work manages to be every bit as tantalizing and mean as the next corporate work jockey ready to job snatch and brown nose their way to the top. Brave solutions and steadfast commitment create pretty crazy twist interns that keep the narrative fun and mysterious. What starts off as a pissing match between two coworkers switches into overdrive emotion, mixing business with pleasure into a pretty horrifying situation. From scene to scene you never know what to expect, which keeps the viewers engaged and guessing. Selfish survival instincts do not stop in the wild.
The characterization of the group consistently puts viewers in their shoes and begs them to question what they would do in each and every wicked scenario. Like any matrix of conflict resolution, the players move through the game board with each turn chosen carefully to provide for a level combination of both comedic relief and icy content. If you think you know how the events will unfold in A Nasty Piece Of Work, you might want to re-evaluate the winning criteria and keep the last, most important rule in mind: Never take your eye off the underdog.
“[A Nasty Piece of Work] is a lush, tense, and dangerous gift to the Into The Dark series, further promoting fresh storytelling and relevant perspectives.”
Are you watching the second season of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark anthology series? What do you think of December’s episode, A Nasty Piece Of Work? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!