Into the Dark, Hulu’s year-round event series in partnership with Blumhouse Television is closing out the year with its Christmas Episode: A Nasty Piece of Work. Beginning last December with Pooka!, it’s only fitting that its holiday episode is one of the best in years. Directed by Charles Hood and written by Paul Soter, A Nasty Piece of Work uses the “rich people really like games” horror trope in such an inventive way that it’s hard not to commend the film.
In A Nasty Piece of Work, Ted (Kyle Howard) is a mid-level employee at a large company. He’s a hard worker, one that rushes to fulfill his bosses’ needs before he even asks. Desperate for a promotion and bonus he was expecting at the annual Holiday party, he’s crushed when he finds out that neither will be happening. Shaken and angry, the audiences see what’s under the surface while he puts on an apathetic air for those around him, including Essex (Julian Sands), his self-important boss. But just when it seems all his hard work is lost, his boss invites him over for dinner with a promise of a chance at a promotion.
When Ted and his wife Tatum (Angela Sarafyan) show up, they realize they weren’t the only ones who were invited when they see Ted’s corporate rival and all-around guy-you-would-hate-to-meet, Gavin (Dustin Milligan) and his fiancé Missy (Natalie Hall) have been invited as well. Instead of a brief interview and dinner, it becomes clear that their hosts are a little unhinged in an almost Most Dangerous Game way, as rich people in horror tend to be. In order to get the promotion, the two employees must enter a violent competition to prove which one of them embodies the company’s values.
A Nasty Piece of Work is simple in the best ways. This year we’ve seen a revitalization of crazy rich people doing crazy things with Ready or Not and even Knives Out. With this installment, Into the Dark closes out the year by hitting all the notes of the films previously mentioned while also presenting a unique story. Each piece of the film works with each act building on the last. Guided by title cards that appear as the film transitions, A Nasty Piece of Work succeeds because of its wonderful characters and the actors behind them. While the titles cards are used too often, they help add a bit of dark humor as the tone changes throughout the film.
Now, I use wonderful because it’s a joy to see them on the screen but outside of Tatum and Ted they’re all just really terrible people which makes for great entertainment. With his script, Soter understands how to write characters that we root for, root against, and that keeps us invested in the story. It balances their bad acts and money with enough humor that keeps us engaged and not rolling our eyes. In fact, it’s the humor of A Nasty Piece of Work that brings its charm. Dark and absurd, the Christmas episode of Into the Dark is focused on entertainment and I walked away wanting to watch it again.
The humor is at its height in Essex’s dysfunctional marriage with Kiwi (Molly Hagan). The fight, they threaten each other, they cheat, and they don’t make any sense but somehow, it all works. They’re awful people with even more awful senses of humor. But there are moments where the amusement of this couple drives the audience and the two other couples in the room to feeling deeply uncomfortable. While some moments are fine once we’re on the other side of them, the use of disability in the story just doesn’t sit well. While it was done to show the lengths that the couple has gone through to plan this holiday party, it feels so wrong to watch. That being said, it is done to highlight the complete disregard for people that the couple has and in no way glorifies them.
Additionally, A Nasty Piece of Work uses Ted and Gavin to the fullest extent, turning them into walking caricatures that balance each other. Gavin is the fraternity bro turned venture capitalist and Ted is the meek man who can’t stomach corporate America. They’re two sides of the same coin, and it’s Ted’s good nature that helps you root for him. But the complexity of the characters is driven by their interactions with their wives. Missy is vapid on the outside but thoughtful underneath while Tatum sits and watches the events unfold. She doesn’t say much but there is never a moment where you think that she isn’t involved. This culminates in the ending where everyone’s personalities are put on full display through their decisions and Tatum takes center stage.
Overall, A Nasty Piece of Work is easily the most fun I’ve had with an Into the Dark episode, film, I’m unsure what to call them even after 14 have come out. I don’t believe the horror community talks enough about the series but I’m hoping this changes in the new year. If you’re looking for holiday cheer, you won’t find it here. But you will find awful rich people being terrible to people of lower economic status and what happens when the stakes of a game are higher than taking a simple L.
Into the Dark: A Nasty Piece of Work will be available exclusively on Hulu on December 6, 2019.
Into the Dark: A Nasty Piece of Work
A Nasty Piece of Work is easily the most fun I’ve had with an Into the Dark episode, film, I’m unsure what to call them even after 14 have come out. I don’t believe the horror community talks enough about the series but I’m hoping this changes in the new year.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.