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Communication is the key for the survival of nine strangers who have been kidnapped by a masked gunman and told that one of them will die every ten minutes until they discover why they are there. Can they figure it out before they all die? Written by
Chris Shadley has been involved on a production level in various other projects, including big hits, but this is his first time directing. Patrick Wehe Mahoney had never written for the screen before this. Going by "Nine Dead", neither of them should try again. Harsh? Perhaps, but if you take the time to see this movie, you will quickly be on board with that view.
Nine people are kidnapped by a masked stranger, put in a room, and told they must deduce the reason they are there. Every ten minutes they will be asked, and if they fail to answer correctly, one of them will die. An intriguing setup, even if not completely unfamiliar to those who know of "The Killing Room", "Cube", or Agatha Christie, and clearly an idea that is trying to ride the wave of the "Saw" series, borrowing heavily from classic revenge movies and the exploitation cinema of the 70's in various ways. The fact it is rather derivative did not bother me so much (I am happy to watch a completely derivative piece of work if it is good as a standalone film). The problem is that they manage to make it look cheaper than it is, with a shooting style that you would expect to find in an impressive student film; clunky editing sewing flashback sequences in that just feel awkward; there is no excitement after the setup; no twists, no turns, no surprises, and when you finally reach the inevitable reveal of the connection, it is rather uninteresting, not to mention hard to believe that this person would have gone to this extent for revenge. It is like saying you're going to make a gorgeous desert for after dinner and all you can come up with is vanilla ice cream. If that isn't bad enough, imagine then throwing the ice cream on the floor! That, if you're confused, is my analogy for the ending. I enjoy a movie with a provocative endings, a movie that leaves you something to think about, provokes a discussion, or even a movie that is open-ended, so long as it is justified; this ending just screams that they did not know what to do with it.
I'm not necessarily a sucker for top-name casting and am always happy to see new talent and give it a chance, but despite a couple of exceptions, this cast is awful. Some may seem familiar from character work they have done elsewhere, but barely any can deliver anything without looking like they have just been told their lines from off camera; even the "bankable" lead Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina The Teenage Witch) fails rather miserably to deliver anything close to believable. This is of course not helped by the dialogue they are given, which from beginning to end is the most banal writing I've seen for some time! At points I even found it a bit insulting, Mahoney presuming that an audience, even those who are not dedicated genre fans, would relate to anything anyone in this film has to say; there seems to be, at points, attempts at social commentary (much akin to the early "Saw" movies) that is just trite, over-simplified rubbish! To believe that anyone interested in a film like this would accept and believe some of these characters' ways of thinking as being even remotely realistic is a big mistake on its own.
So you're wondering why a three-star rating, right? It is simply for no other reason than the fact I have seen worse; I liked the performance of the hostage-taker (certainly the most interesting character present), and I genuinely feel it is an idea that, if committed to the screen by someone who knew what they were doing with the material, "Nine Dead" would have come out as an enjoyable mystery thriller.
As it is, it is just completely forgettable, lacking the intelligence and intrigue of "Cube", the frightening social bite of "The Killing Room" and the cinematic panache of "Saw" all at once.
In short, do not bother.
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