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Nine Dead (2010)

DVD Cover (Image Entertainment)
Genres:
Horror, Psychological Thriller, Thriller
Director:
Chris Shadley Chris Shadley
Starring:
Melissa Joan Hart Melissa Joan Hart
William Lee Scott William Lee Scott
John Terry John Terry
James C. Victor James C. Victor
Marc Macaulay Marc Macaulay

4.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: October 18, 2010
There are a lot of people who despise knock-off movies, but not me. I look at it like this: if I enjoyed Movie A, and if Movie B attempts to emulate the style of Movie A, then it stands to reason that I should be able to get some enjoyment out of the emulation so long as it's a halfway decent effort. I know that not everyone shares my view on that topic, citing "originality" this and "creative standards" that, but that's where I stand. So, when I heard about the blatant Saw plagiarism in Nine Dead, I knew that I'd have to take a look at it eventually. Besides, it has Melissa Joan Hart in the lead role: who doesn't want to see Clarissa herself attempt to explain the horror genre to us? The resulting film wasn't terrific, but it wasn't terrible either.

As is usually the case with these movies, the plot is simple on the surface and almost confusing once you dig a little deeper. Nine people - Kelley (Melissa Joan Hart), Jackson (William Lee Scott), Eddie (James C. Victor), Father Francis (Marc Macaulay), Chan (Lucille Soong), Sully (Chip Bent), Leon (Edrick Browne), Coogan (Lawrence Turner), and Christian (John Cates) - are locked in a room together and handcuffed to individual poles that come out of the floor. A masked man (John Terry, and that's not a spoiler) comes in shortly after and lays down the law: these nine people are all connected in some way, and they have to figure out how even though none of them seem to know one another. Just to keep things interesting, he will return to the room every ten minutes and murder one of them until they have figured everything out. Everyone in the room has their secrets, so how long will it take before they start spilling them in an attempt to figure out how they are connected?

The storyline here was actually pretty good, I'm going to give the filmmakers credit for that. We're kept interested throughout the running time and we're always wanting to know where the connections are going to come from next, and even though almost the entire movie is nothing but people standing around in a room talking to one another, I was never stealing glances at the clock to see how much more I had to sit through. Granted, some of the connections that the people come up with are shaky at best and downright laughable at their worst, but hey, that sort of thing didn't slow down the Saw franchise, did it? It's not a flawless story, but if it sounds interesting to you on paper, you'll likely enjoy seeing it play out... if you can get past the other issues found in the film.

For starters, the acting is almost universally terrible. Melissa Joan Hart is by far the worst of the bunch, which was disappointing considering that she was half the reason that I watched this in the first place. Any other director would have kicked her off the set ten minutes into shooting, but... look, I'm not going to make claims here that I can't back up, so let's just stick to the facts. This film was produced by Hartbreak Films, a little company that Melissa founded, while Melissa and her mother were two of the producers for this film. I wonder how she got that leading role, talent be damned? The rest of the cast doesn't fare much better, and it's rather telling when the best actor in the film is Daniel freaking Baldwin. Unfortunately, he's only in the film for ten seconds.

Then there's the ending - my word, the ending. I'm going to tread lightly here so as not to spoil it, but it ends up with a couple of people left in the room, the secret is out of the bag, the killer is revealed, and the credits are just around the corner. A twist rears its ugly head, someone is escaping, the cops are beating down the door, and... did I mention that the credits were just around the corner? Yeah, and here they come. It's almost as if the last five minutes of the movie were chopped off, and trust me when I say that this was one of the worst ways to end a movie that I have ever seen. I'm all for ambiguous endings, but this wasn't even ambiguous... it was more of a "Fuck it, we don't know how to end this movie, so let's just wrap it up in the middle of this scene."

I did mention that this was a Saw knock-off, and that is true. This film plays out exactly like one of those movies, what with the people trapped in a central location, a puzzle to unlock, a masked madman tormenting them, numerous kills, the whole nine yards. The one difference here is that Nine Dead does not feature the creative kills that Saw did, and in fact, it doesn't even have a whole lot of the red stuff. Somebody is about to die? The killer will raise his gun, the camera will cut away, we hear it fire, and then we see the victim dead on the ground with some blood on the wall and the floor. Don't go into this expecting something that will rival Jigsaw's traps after reading the comparisons.

I realize that I've basically shit on this movie for ninety percent of the review, but as I mentioned, the storyline did work out rather well and kept me interested. That goes a long way in bumping up the final score, but that is not to say that I'm going to be giving this one a hearty recommendation. It's average at best when you factor in the numerous problems, which is really a shame as this could have been something beautiful in the hands of competent filmmakers. 4/10.
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Farley #1: Farley - added 10/18/2010, 03:47 PM
Yeah, this review is spot on. What a terrible ending.
Crispy #2: Crispy - added 06/19/2012, 04:55 AM
I don't have any real disagreement to any of your points, but I'd rate it a lot more. Yeah, the movie could definitely have used another five minutes, but the ending didn't piss me off to the same extent it did you. As for acting, Hart, Scott and Bent at times were abysmal, but I found everyone else to be closer to average, albeit still on the wrong side of that line. I think I'd go about a 7.
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