Judge Eric Profancik just put a down payment down on a Split-Level of 12.774.
Nine strangers. One house. Only one will get out…alive.
I like to use this beginning section of the review to talk about tangentially-related personal experiences that relate to the movie, or just ramble on about some odd reaction I had. In this instance, I can't come up with anything. I'm blank. The few items I can think of mentioning are "best" saved for the Evidence section—otherwise, this would end up as my shortest DVD review. (Hold down the applause.) But I feel compelled to come up with something, so here's the best I can conjure up: Who is Bauer Martinez, and why is his name emblazoned all over the packaging? Should I know Bauer? Can we be buddies? I'd also like to state that my mailman crushed the case, making it the worst received disc in my Verdict career.
Pretty lame stuff. It's somewhat like the movie.
Facts of the Case
Nine strangers awake to find themselves locked inside a house. None of them know exactly how they arrived. A mysterious voice over an intercom says that he has wired the house with cameras and microphones, and that he wants them to entertain him. He wants them to kill each other, with the last survivor being released and winning $5 million dollars.
The nine cannot find a way out, their food is strictly rationed, and tensions quickly mount. Will they succumb to their primal instincts, or use intelligence and rationality to stay alive?
There are many little pieces of other films in House of 9. You can sense some Saw, 13 Ghosts, and a good deal of Series 7: The Contenders. What it boils down to is twisting the ongoing popularity of reality television into a macabre and gory tale of violence and death. This movie is taking Survivor to the extreme. Tribes? Immunity challenges? Food rewards? That's child's play. How well would you do if murder was the only way to win? Could you do it?
It's an interesting premise, and House of 9 actually begins of with a touch of promise. The opening act is dark, slowly ratcheting up the tension. An air of desperation seeps in as the people begin to dread the inevitability that death will befall the group. Sadly, this nice buildup dissolves in the second act. As things begin to degenerate, the tension falls away, and we shift into standard thriller mode. Ultimately, the final act ruins it all by quickly falling into well-traveled horror roads, with dramatic tension dissolving into typical murderous hysteria.
The true weakness of House of 9 actually isn't in the script. No, it's with the nine actors trapped in the movie. There is only one name in the film you will recognize, Dennis Hopper (Speed)—assuming you haven't subjected yourself to Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. Why he's in this film is lost on me. Maybe he's a good buddy of Bauer Martinez and owed him a favor? Your guess is as good as mine. Each of the actors is quite awful in their parts—even Hopper, a normally talented man. It's as if he's doing some long-distance acting. The sloppy acting takes you out of the movie, never lets you care about the people, never allows a moment to connect, and simply makes you wish they would die because they are annoying. And when things are going so badly, you just can't help but nitpick things. For example, Hopper's fake Irish accent—he plays Father Duffy—makes you cringe every time he opens his mouth. Why'd he have to be Irish?
Not to totally slam this film, I admit it does have two small redeeming qualities. First, I enjoyed the set design. The house felt real and solid. I found the architecture and style aesthetically pleasing and conducive to the mood of the film. Also, I though Steven R. Monroe competently directed the film.
What's also good are the transfers on the disc. I'm deducing that House of 9 is fairly low budget, but the set design and quality here belies that potential fact. The 1.85:1 anamorphic print is exceptionally good, with brilliant colors and rich black details. It's crystal clear, and you'll feel like you are in the house. As good as the print is, I was surprised to find those annoying white speckles popping up throughout the presentation. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also well done, with clean, distortion-free dialogue and immersive use of the surrounds. It's not the most aggressive track, but it does what it does well.
Outside of trailers for House of 9, Defender, Citizen Verdict, and Number 1 Girl, this is a bare-bones disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Hey, I said the set looked good, what else do you want from me? Just be glad I don't go on about the awful music scene that feels like it goes on forever.
You know, I've always wanted to see House of D, but wasn't sure Duchovny could really pull it off. Now that I've now seen House of 9 starring Asher D, I think I'm close enough!
While House of 9 alludes to, and borrows from, many films, it doesn't work. Its early potential is unfortunately wasted, and you're left with a rather mundane horror film. I guess I should mention that there's a "shocking ending," if you buy into the marketing. I will concede it's unexpected and somewhat interesting, yet it feels more like an effort to set the stage for a sequel more than anything else.
With all that said and done, I think you should be able to make the recommendation for yourself; nonetheless, it's my job to spell it out for you. House of 9 does not garner a recommendation for rental or purchase. If you happen to be a fan of the film—though I'm not sure where you may have seen it before now—the transfers on the DVD won't do you wrong.
House of 9 is hereby found guilty of senseless violence and shameless overacting. It is sentenced to nine days in solitary.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
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