With the end of the year, it can be immensely overwhelming for everyone as they deal with odds and ends before Christmas and the New Year arrive. In corporate America during the holiday season, there is the added stress for employees when it comes to the concept of the Christmas holiday bonus. What is slowly becoming a dying business practice, the holiday bonus can not only help out an employee in their personal life, but it can help boost their productivity in the workplace. However, if an employee doesn’t receive a bonus after investing so much work to acquire it, it can have catastrophic personal and professional results. The question is, though, how far is an employee willing to go for their boss in order to get that extra lump of cash? The answer and then some is revealed in the latest installment of Blumhouse and Hulu’s Into the Dark horror anthology series titled A NASTY PIECE OF WORK.
The episode focuses on mid-level employee Ted (Kyle Howard), who is working desperately to secure either a holiday bonus or a promotion from his boss Essex (Julian Sands). He is competing with his asshole coworker Gavin (Dustin Milligan) for these things, which creates a lingering animosity between the two that gets used wonderfully later on in the episode. However, at the company’s holiday party, it is revealed by Essex that no one will be receiving a bonus this year due to finances not being quite where they need to be to warrant that. When Ted goes to confront Essex about the decision, he receives what will be the opportunity of a lifetime for him. Essex reveals that there is a new executive position being made and he is considering Ted for the job. He invites Ted and his wife Tatum (Angela Sarafyan) to his home for dinner to discuss the position further. Once Ted arrives to Essex’s home, they discover that Gavin and his wife Missy (Natalie Hall) have also been invited. This discovery starts a trickle effect where we learn what all parties involved will have to do in order for Essex to give out the promotion and, needless to say, it’s not anything that we’d ever expect.
To maintain the surprises that this film holds, I’m going to refrain from writing more about the plot to keep the bulk of the spoilers at bay. That being said, A NASTY PIECE OF WORK is hilariously fucked up. Paul Soter‘s script is darkly humourous and serves to keep the audience on their toes as we watch what is essentially a giant work-related clusterfuck happen once all characters enter Essex’s home. While the story itself isn’t what anyone would expect from the horror genre, I think it definitely fits into the category of dark horror comedy that we’ve seen rise up this year in films like Ready or Not. However, the lack of overt traditional horror may end up making many consider this film to be polarizing. Regardless, the film is hilarious, shocking, and – at times – feels like it completely veers off a cliff plummeting to parts unknown.
One of the elements that I have found to be consistent with the Into the Dark series is how each episode usually has a singular setting that is as much of a character as the people present in the films. A NASTY PIECE OF WORK is no exception. While the film takes place between an office setting and Essex’s home, the magic that this episode has definitely takes place in Essex’s home. Director Charles Hood makes good use of the unique space within the home, using the environment that production designer Ashley Swanson has created to amplify the games that Essex and his wife Kiwi (Molly Hagan) are playing on the poor employees of Falconheart Ventures. The home is stockpiled with surprising weapons, dark corridors, and the like that make for excellent, surprising moments in the film.
Hood also works well to capture the performances necessary to land the high-stakes tension and comedy required from Soter’s script. Julian Sands is perfectly smarmy in his role as the conniving, slimy Essex. Kyle Howard balances the emotional ups and downs that Ted is going through as he’s trying to take whatever it is Essex is throwing at him while Dustin Milligan is so convincing as the insecure asshole Gavin. However, Molly Hagan steals the show as the eccentric, snarky Kiwi and, in all honesty, if I could just watch a full hour of just Kiwi doing whatever it is that Kiwi does in her day to day life, I would.
On a personal level, I do prefer last year’s Christmas entry POOKA! more than I did A NASTY PIECE OF WORK. However, that’s just my personal preference in terms of horror. Overall, A NASTY PIECE OF WORK stands on its own as a darkly hilarious and fucked up exploration of how the wealthy dangle incentives over the working class for their own amusement and control. It’s never about rewarding hard work. It’s always about what you’re willing to do to get what they dangle over your head. The tone of this particular installment is honestly the greatest selling point for the film. It is a weird healing balm for what can be a hard time of year for people. And I think we can all use a touch of weird humor this holiday season. Fortunately, A NASTY PIECE OF WORK delivers that in spades.
INTO THE DARK: A NASTY PIECE OF WORK will be available for streaming on Friday, December 6, on Hulu.