Nine Dead (2010)

MARCH 9, 2010

GENRE: REVENGE, THRILLER
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)

Well, I got my wish. Since Lionsgate and their brethren began churning out Saw ripoffs, I have been asking for one that was cribbing from the story more than its death scenes, and Nine Dead is just that film. In fact, if anything it could have USED a few unique murders and/or gore shots, as everyone merely gets shot off camera, which gets a bit tiresome since the scenes in between are all in one location and focus entirely on our cast members yelling at each other.

So once again, a mysterious man has kidnapped a bunch of people and chained them up in some sort of abandoned warehouse/basement/whatever. But instead of putting them thru dangerous tests, or forcing them to kill one another, he simply asks them to figure out why they are all there. Every ten minutes he will return to the room, and if they still don’t know, he will kill one - but they will still have to figure out why that now-dead person was there with them. It’s a nifty plot device, but it also deflates some of the suspense - the first guy to provide some info is the first to die, and so on. Once they have given up what they know and/or how they recognize one of the others in the room, they’ve served their purpose. I think it would have been kind of cool if there was one cipher character whose role was never made clear to the others, only to let us in the audience know at the very end for a little stinger closing scene (sort of like how no one but us knows what “Rosebud” means).

And without spoiling it, the ultimate answer is actually kind of sad. Their captor is seeking some sort of justice for the chain of events that caused him to lose someone dear to him, events that the kidnapped folks were all involved with in some way. As he says, maybe a bit too on-the-nose-y, “His life ended only because he became a part of yours”, which is kind of a bummer. As we learn, many of the people didn’t really do anything horrible - for example, one of them is a priest, who is there because he didn’t go to the police with something he heard in his confessional booth.

On that note, one minor quibble - how does the captor know about all of the things that these people did? If the priest didn’t tell anyone, how did the bad guy know what he was told, or even that the guy confessed to him at all? An illegal gun purchase also factors into the story - how did he know who the gun was bought from? We learn that the buyer didn’t even really know the seller (both are in the room), so for a guy who only became aware of these events years later to know about them seems a bit far-fetched.

Then again, maybe there’s a perfectly good explanation for it that was simply left on the cutting room floor, or never shot at all. The movie has a number of puzzling tangents that never pay off. For example, Daniel Baldwin plays a partner to one of the kidnapped folks, but he only appears, for about 12 seconds, in the scene where the guy is kidnapped. But Baldwin is the only person that witnesses one of the kidnappings, which makes you think that he will be a bigger factor in the film, possibly tracking down what’s going on or maybe putting some of the connections together himself. But nope, he never appears again. Granted, Baldwin isn’t exactly an A lister, but it seems odd to hire him (of all people) for such a thankless, almost mute “cameo”.

There are also a number of shots of a car driving, which again suggest someone heading toward them. But that’s all they are - shots of a car driving. This results in a hilarious moment where one guy yells “We gotta think of something!” (cut to a car driving, then back to the same guy) “I just thought of something.” It’s a moment that resembles when you watch a TV show on DVD and you hear the same line of dialogue more or less repeated because the original 4 minute commercial break is no longer there. Also, an ending that seems like they forgot to film the punchline, some truly atrocious ADR, and a closing credits scroll that doesn’t have any of the usual legal language, an MPAA number, or a copyright date. Add all that up, and you have a movie that was almost definitely compromised, for one reason or another.

But it still works. I was engaged, and I wanted to know how they were all connected, trying to figure it out even without any information at hand. The real time aspect works really well, as do the occasional stabs at dark humor - gotta love that everyone instantly assumes that the priest is a pedophile. And it ends with a song by Course of Nature, an underrated rock band who I enjoy listening to from time to time (their “Caught In The Sun” is a great power ballad).

However, I can’t help but wonder if it would have worked even better with a cast that was all more or less at the same place on the Hollywood totem pole. Melissa Joan Hart and William Lee Scott (not a household name, no, but a familiar character actor all the same) are the “names”, so you know they won’t die anytime soon, and what information they provide early on isn’t relevant or entirely truthful, saving their big reveals for near the end of the film. It doesn’t help that Scott’s performance could best be described as awkward, as he bugs his eyes out and says everything with a sneer; it’s like watching E from Entourage do a particularly bad Taxi Driver impression for 90 minutes. In fact, the people who I had never seen before, such as Chip Bent and James C. Victor, give the best performances. It’s also a bummer that John Terry (another Saw connection - a Lost actor!) plays the masked villain who doesn’t say much until the end of the film; his high billing was a selling point for me.

But it least it was an honest selling point, unlike the box art and the film’s trailer, both of which try way too hard to sell this as a full blown horror movie. The box art has nine bloody bodies lying in a “9” shape, though none of them seem to be the actors from the film (there’s certainly no tiny Asian woman or tall African American guy among the folks on the poster). And the trailer has lots of shots of the masked “killer” at his work bench, cops with flashlights and other assorted shots from the finale, and even a few jigsaw puzzle piece designs scattering around the onscreen text. Come on guys, you have a fairly decent thriller here, why try to sell it as yet another generic Saw-clone?

So the story isn’t as crafty as Saw’s, and it doesn’t offer the gory highlights either, but I think it’s a step in the right direction for these sort of things. I’ve seen a hundred mortal head injuries at this point, but I’ll never tire of trying to solve a story puzzle before the characters do (and unlike 99 Pieces, the story isn’t just a big cheat). With a little script polishing and the budget/time/whatever was needed to tell the story as envisioned, I think this could have been a really great flick, but at least it’s still a pretty good one.

What say you?


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17 comments:

  1. i gotta say, i watched this film right after reading your review and seeing it on the redbox outside of the 7/11 and this movie was good but frustrating. as you stated, this movie would have been really great with some more money thrown at it and the ridiculous SAW shit thrown out. but then it probably wouldnt have been made because hollywood is about retreading.
    it was good and kept my interest because you want to know what happens and why they are all connected. it's just that the story falls flat after a while and is basically incomplete. what was up with that final scene? i thought maybe they were trying to do the saw thing where they save all kinds of shit to happen for the final few minutes so that you'll be interested in the sequel. this movie i doubt will get a sequel but not sure i want one with who survives.
    btw, been reading the site a while now, keep up the good work.
    i have to say, what was with this movie and the disparity between good and bad acting? some of the actors were good and some felt like this was their first time ever in front of a camera. and the weird thing was sully, or whatever his name was, got better at acting and i liked his character more as the story progressed.

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  2. my comment daily JJuly 18, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    Melissa Joan Heart could have been dressed a little more flattering than they had her. They could have made it a little more interesting. Maybe some storyline about the guy who died of Aids, so the audience could feel sympathy for the Father. I agree, I was anxious to find out the reason behind the kidnappings for awhile. But why would they keep showing the same car passing the building??? Just to waste film or something? IDK

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  3. I just saw the "Nine Dead" movie and I must tell you. WTF happened at the end, when the police swat-team is rounding the corner of the corridor just as Melissa [aka Murderous Bitch!]
    is seen trying to WHAT?..get away from the swat-team/police or get TO them? I cannot seem to learn what the heck is supposed to have
    happened at the end of the scene? My japanese version simply cut to the ending credits and some cool music (at least!)... so after watching the entire movie, I feel so cheated..it sucks! Please tell me the ending..pleaseeeee? lol

    momchinea@gmail.com (I'm Belinda.)

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  4. Belinda,
    It takes a little pondering. The movie is called 9 dead, but only 8 victims die. At the end Hart kills the perpetrator and then she escapes as the cops find the room of nine, which leaves 9 dead! It took my friend and I a while to figure it out, so we googled it and eventually found out the answer.

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  5. The ending is actually great. It was very frustrating at first as I yelled 'That's it??'

    But then think about it. If Hart was killed it would haved given a satisfying ending. But the ending is cerebral. Hart is actually the 9th person 'dead'. She will be haunted forever more by what happened. Her career is dead (after all, it was being recorded). Her life as she knows it is dead. Hart was the most evil one in the group,and she will be the one who suffers. Not simply shot like the others.

    BEN

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  6. Not a great movie, but I was interested to see the mystery unravel.

    Man, Sully was a horrendous actor. I hope he never acts again!

    That scene where MJH explains that she was raped was dumb. It may have set up how driven she was to survive but it was also used as a segue into figuring out that the pedophile had raped Todd. A point that was more than a little obvious before her cathartic (and VERY poorly acted) rape/murder confession.

    It was funny when the Chinese woman called Leon the N word.

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    Replies
    1. I'm not a fan of Sully's treatment of women. Oddly, though, it was hard not to laugh when he was trying to talk over an argument and says "you guys are worse than my strippers!"

      -Rackstraw

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  7. I watched this movie on chiller so I'm not sure if things got deleted out for time. One comment was on MJH rape story. This was to show how dead she was already on the inside that beating the man gave her no guilt. Therefore no remorse for what she does later. Thus was a odd movie that kept me up wanting to know what happen and wanting it to be good. The Most distracting was melissas hair.

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  8. What is the song at the end???

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  9. Kelley is not going to get caught. She escaped from the cops and took care of the recorded evidence. In the final shot when the cops show up, the computer is missing from the desk.

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    Replies
    1. Since you noticed the computer was gone, did you also notice that she didnt carry it out??

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    2. Didn't notice the computer mystery. Figure one of three things happens, though:

      1) Kelley's getaway gambit is hopeless. They'll get her in short order.

      2) Kelley will go on the lam and survive through criminal means for the rest of her life.

      -or-

      3) The kidnapper was lying about the cops already knowing. She'll realize it through luck and keep the secret forever.

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  10. (Don't know why it's listing me as Anonymous. I'm logging in as Rackstraw through LiveJournal.)

    Wow, quite a range of opinions, here! Just saw 9 Dead twice through to make sure I understood it.

    Confessing some ignorance: I have yet to see Saw. I also didn't recognize any actors except the one who played Christian Shepherd.

    One critique for the blogger: Instead of telling us that the madman was seeking justice for the loss of a loved one, write only that he feels wronged by the chain of events. That would truly minimize spoilage. :-)

    But, since the comments before mine are replete with spoilers anyway...

    I too questioned how the masked captor could know who plants evidence, sells guns from cars, and confesses to priests. Is he clairvoyant?

    Other enigmas: I've forgotten if Wade had any actual connection to the robbery. Also, why didn't Wade's father attempt to bail him out or appear as a character witness?

    Crazy Theory 1: Wade knew Christian, the real robber. He might have some inkling who the gun merchant was, to whom Christian confesses, etc. and told the madman after getting out of jail.

    Crazy Theory 2: Remember, the mad kidnapper acts like he's giving the 9 privacy between visits, then he claims that everything said has been broadcast. Perhaps setting up hidden cameras was a cakewalk because he's a hobbyist surveillance nut.

    Yes, this theory's getting crazier: He long ago set up hidden microphones at confessional booths, street corners, civil offices, etc. His automated spy network covering Los Angeles is so vast, in fact, that he can't hope to review all the recordings!

    After completing 10 years' worth of work setting up this citywide array, he checks his mobile and discovers a few hundred missed calls from Wade. He dutifully tends to Wade in the terminal years and gets the story, learning just which recordings to review.

    BUT THERE'S JUST ONE TINY PROBLEM WITH THIS THEORY!

    I think the biggest plot hole is why Jackson the cop got kidnapped. Jackson appeared to be an unwitting pawn! Even if there were some credible way he could have known that Kelley the corrupt prosecutor had slipped him the planted evidence, why blame Jackson for something he didn't know about?

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    Replies
    1. Jackson is connected because he provided Kelley with the motive to want to win a case. If she didn't have the affair out she wouldn't have been at risk of losing her job and therefore would not have needed to frame wade

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  11. Thanks for watching my movie. You all had valid points about the story and characters.
    --The Writer

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  12. The movie provides a line which draws on ones conscience on what we do everyday, how our actions or inactions draws effects to us, really also show our unseemingly selfish we can be in our dealings. I enjoyed the movie as I was tracking and trying to also connect what each could have done. Really it potrays the desperado potential in human beings. Nice film but maybe we should also see how kelly suffered too.

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  13. Nine Dead does remind me of a low budget saw but I found the movie to be entertaining. I thought it was okay however it would of been alot better with more work put into it. The whole Wade storyline was pretty decent, it be better if the movie explained how the killer just like jigg saw in Saw knew about the characthers. Did he research them?was he following them? . The ending was upsetting also to me. *SPOILER* the killer just wanted them to know what they did wrong and was going to allow the last three to go free and turn himself into the cops, I was mad this bitch really killed the killer and the two guys. She to me was just a pure bitch, she could of prevented Wade going to jail and dying of HIV if she didnt lie. She walked out free it seems like, she just has to deal with her demons inside. Anywho, I thought the movie was still okay could of been better like the review says with more money thrown into it.

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