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Nine Dead

Review by: 
A.J. MacReady
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Chris Shadley
Melissa Joan Hart
William Lee Scott
Bottom Line: 
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Dear Horrorview readers:

I’ve come here today to provide a public service for each and every one of you, my friends.  My only hope is that you heed my forthcoming words; it would be a crying shame for anyone to disregard the knowledge I have to share, for that would mean my suffering has been in vain.  And to know that I had to sit through such a cinematic travesty only to fail in keeping innocents such as yourselves from experiencing such pain would be a huge injustice.  So please - listen carefully.  The brain cells I save could be your own.

The subject at hand is the embarrassment which masquerades as a movie, Nine Dead.  It APPEARS to be a movie, anyway; it is shot on film and there was, presumably, a script which allowed actors to stand in front of a camera and deliver what passes for dialogue.  Somebody - in this particular case, an individual named Chris Shadley - sat in a director’s chair and said the word “action” and followed that with the word “cut” when, I can only assume, he felt he was in danger of losing consciousness.  I can sum up the, uh, plot (cough) easily enough:  nine strangers are kidnapped and cuffed to posts in an abandoned warehouse by a masked, hooded killer.  They are informed that if they can discover what it is they all have in common and the ultimate reason why they‘re all there then they will be released.  Until they figure that out, one of them will be murdered every ten minutes.

And that’s it.  One room, nine people, ten minute increments.  Then somebody gets shot and everything starts all over again.

I hear what you’re saying, good people:  surely that COULD be the premise for some decent cinema!  With solid acting, a tightly written screenplay, and inventive direction to overcome such a static setting, there could be something there (I mean, witness Reservoir Dogs, for example).  I have to admit, with those ingredients, you’d be correct. 

Sadly, Nine Dead is blessed with none of those attributes.  I just got done watching this piece of shit and cannot for the life of me remember a single redeeming factor about it.

Understand, I am not what anyone would call a “movie snob.”  I’m well aware that I like many, many movies that most people - including my esteemed colleague Big McLargehuge - would deem utterly horrible.  I had a great time watching Stephen Sommers’ G.I. Joe flick, for Christ’s sake (but I did find Van Helsing bland and forgettable; I do have some standards).  All I ask is that for roughly an hour and a half, the movie be more entertaining than, say, sitting around with my thumb up my ass, which more or less serves as my default setting.  Many movies are able to fulfill such a simple and unassuming request.

Nine Dead had the opposite effect, in that I’m pissed off because life is too fucking short and that’s an hour and a half of it that I’ll never get back.  I could have used that time to, say, drive rusty nails into my genitals; that would have been less painful than sitting through such a rancid pile of iguana vomit.

In flicks that succeed at what they do, I can normally point out who did well at their job.  Alas, the only action I can take here is to point fingers and hope for long-lasting curses.  In terms of the actors, there’s mostly just our nine “protagonists” and the killer - although I must point out that Daniel Baldwin (shame on you, sir) is in this for roughly twenty seconds.  I seriously forgot he had even been onscreen at all until the credits came up, which he must be thankful for - I wonder what kind of dirt the director’s got on him to blackmail him into taking part in this?  Anyway, the characters are all virtual stick figures with maybe ONE personality trait apiece.  There’s the cop (William Lee Scott), the criminal, the strip-joint owner, the priest (Marc Macaulay, who normally plays heavies in flicks ranging from Passenger 57 to Tom Jane’s Punisher flick, must have remained totally in character as he appears to be silently begging for forgiveness the whole time), the unrepentant pedophile (believe it, folks), and the rest that I just realized that I don’t give a donkey’s dick about going into.  Well, there IS one more, but I’ll get to her in a bit.  All the acting on display is wooden, unconvincing, and almost entirely an affront to the craft.  Same goes for the direction - I have literally nothing to say about it other than it’s flat and uninspired and plays out like Shadley was attempting to see if it was possible for him to shoot an entire feature-length movie without displaying any discernable skill or personality whatsoever.  As for the script, I’d guess that what the writer (Patrick Wehe Mahoney) was trying to pull off an intriguing mystery.  Due to the story set-up, one would be forgiven for thinking that they were in for a Saw rip-off of some kind; nope.  We couldn’t even get thrown THAT bone, everybody - the kills are as boring as possible, consisting of single gunshots and that’s all (I’d wager that the cost of my last visit to Burger King would cover the FX budget with ease).  But I digress, as my point is that as a mystery, the story is an utter failure - not only is there no way that anyone could figure out the connection until we‘re told what it is, but once we find out we couldn’t care less.  It’s not an aggressively bad explanation, which could have been somewhat amusing; it’s just inexcusably boring.  Which sums up the movie as a whole, save for one glaring ingredient, and that is the presence of Melissa Joan Hart as the ostensible lead.

I don’t want to give this black hole of charisma, talent, or competence any more attention than necessary, so I’ll be brief.  First offense:  the character she plays (assistant district attorney) is so hugely and amazingly unlikable, it’s a wonder that the other captives didn’t immediately give up on finding a way out of their predicament to focus all their energies on killing her in a spectacular fashion.  Second offense:  the chick just flat-out couldn’t act her way out of a wet paper bag.  To call her grating is to be too kind.  Explaining that she made me want to pour lighter fluid in my eyes and ears and light a match is closer to the truth.  I fervently wish she never infects my screens again, is what I’m saying.  Whew.  Sorry about that; rant over.

The DVD from Image is, technically, a DVD.  There’s a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio; it is impossible that the movie is worth the trouble even a single technician went through to provide either.  The lone extra is the movie’s trailer, which should play with flashing red lights, a siren, and somebody wailing “DON’T!!! PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, DON’T!!!”

Astute readers may infer that I did not, in fact, enjoy this movie.  Those individuals would be correct in their assessment.  This is a movie that purports to reside in the genre of horror/thriller, and lies as it does so; it is in no way horrifying and it sure as hell ain’t thrilling.  Bottom line, dear friends?  Ten minutes in, I could tell this was most likely a doomed endeavor.  Thirty minutes in and I was repeating “at least I can write a review of this to save others from a similar fate” over and over again.  An hour in and I’m telling myself that I’m a goddamned professional and that I have to watch the whole thing, lest I lose my self-respect. 

The problem with that is, once the completely ludicrous and maddening finale played out and I was treated to the sweet sight of the end credits?  I felt like I had pissed all over my self-respect and that I had only myself to blame.  Do not make the same mistake I did, dear friends.  You’ll never forgive yourself.

From (cinematic) hell,

A.J. MacReady

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