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Case Number 04597

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Nine Lives

Lionsgate // 2002 // 85 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Bromley // June 11th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Bromley says this horror flick is guilty, nine times over.

The Charge

Their number is up.

Opening Statement

The second most important film ever to star heiress/tramp Paris Hilton.

Facts of the Case

Okay. Take Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead—only instead of a secluded cabin in the woods, set it in a remote mansion in Scotland. And instead of five clean-cut American kids trying to make it through the night, you get seven Gap-culture Brits, a Scotsman, and Paris Hilton. And instead of the movie being startlingly original and inventive—one of the best horror films ever made—it's derivative crap. Got it?

I give you Nine Lives.

The Evidence

Brace yourself, but there are no killer cats in Nine Lives. No mutant cats. No good cats fighting evil cats. No CGI cats with the voice of Peter Venkman. No, the title of Nine Lives comes from the singular notion that there are nine people trapped in the mansion. It's a shame that the filmmakers were that literal-minded, too—I wish they had only stocked the place with eight potential corpses so that at least something in this dreck would have surprised me.

Even the gore is totally unremarkable—the film can't even come up with creative ways to kill people. You know what they do? Stab them. Once. Neatly, and in the stomach, leaving perfectly rounded saucer-sized bloodstains on their sweaters. Which isn't to say that gore makes a horror film, but at least it's sometimes there for us to look at in the absence of actual scares. Know what Nine Lives finds scary? Walking around dark hallways, calling out names. Not for the faint of heart! And remember in The Evil Dead, when each new person got possessed, they would change into a demon-faced, vicious, snarling sonuvabitch? Not in Nine Lives, baby! When people get possessed here, their eyes turn black! But…but…regular people have corneas! And…their eyes are all black! Aaaauuugggh! Does the terror know no limits?

I can't remember the last time I saw a horror film this incompetent. At one point, a character huddles on a bed and watches the door as she waits for her possessed friend to bust in. She stares, and she waits…and then he comes in! There's not even an attempt to disregard convention or pull even the tiniest surprise. In another scene, that same girl explains to one of the other survivors, "We're being picked off one by one!" and "He's taking us out…who will be next?" and about five other variations on that same line. This is all in the same exchange of dialogue—it's great that the entire 85- minute film can be boiled down to one soundbite. I, for one, kind of wish they could have spelled things out a bit more clearly.

An actual good horror film—like (once again) The Evil Dead or the more recent Cabin Fever—understands the necessity of getting to know its characters before launching them into whatever atrocities await them. Why? Because in addition to helping develop our sympathies (imagine how much more involving a film could be when you don't want the characters to die), it sets up the dynamic that will play into the way the group tries to survive. Traditionally, this is bolstered by a somewhat talented or appealing cast; sadly, I couldn't even tell you who any of the actors in Nine Lives were or which part they played because I have absolutely no clue. Everyone is utterly generic—every guy is a dark-haired British guy, except for the one guy who's a dark-haired Scottish guy. (By the way, the motives for the evil demon? Totally political—a regular William Wallace, this demon.) The women vary in hair color, but prove to be surprisingly evenly matched when it comes to shrillness; the only difference between any of them is that one is a millionaire heiress in real life. She shouldn't get a day job.

That's right, it's The Simple Life's Paris Hilton—the movie's main attraction (or so the cover box would have us believe). Her dialogue is shot and edited the way one would treat a child actor or a porn star—we cut in, she delivers her one line, then we quickly cut away, thankful that "we got a keeper." You get the distinct impression that one line is all she could handle at a time. When not espousing line deliveries flatter than my nine year-old sister, Paris does nothing but slither, pout, and pose—the only difference between the alive Paris and the dead one is that the alive one has her eyes open. Halfway.

Lions Gate unloads this turkey (actually, calling it a turkey is a disservice to my dinner) on DVD, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions. The picture is unnaturally dark, which I would make a much bigger deal of if I felt as though I was actually missing anything taking place on screen. The 2.0 audio track is dull and has a heavy echo to it; even the stings (an orchestra's equivalent of saying "BOO!") lack any punch. The only extras included are a few bonus trailers and some on-set cast and crew interviews, which demonstrate that Paris Hilton is actually less interesting than she already doesn't seem.

Closing Statement

Blimey! Nine Lives finds at least nine ways to suck!

The Verdict

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

Court is adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 75
Audio: 72
Extras: 9
Acting: 58
Story: 54
Judgment: 61

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genre:
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Cast Interviews
• Bonus Trailers

Accomplices

• IMDb








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