Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

As more and more movies move to Direct to Video the quality of these films invariably is going up. The days of dudes shooting flicks on their parents VHS camcorders is coming to its eventual end as the big movie studios are starting to fund movies with decent budgets and bigger stories for the Direct to Video market. This of course makes it difficult to actually head out to the theater to check out a flick, and the studios would have you believe that this is in large part due to pirating, but a lot has to do with the home theater experience being pretty damn good, and with Blu-Ray and HD-DVD the home theater experience is only going to become better. Hell, I get to go to movies for free and it’s a struggle to leave my house. I mention this because I just got through viewing ‘House of 9’ from Bauer-Martinez’ distribution and thought one of the better DTV outings I’ve seen.

Our film opens with pretty Lea (the pornographically voluptuous Kelly Brook) leaving a night club and getting into her ride only to be chloroformed into unconsciousness and scurried away. We meet a few other individuals who are snatched up by various means and drugged into unconsciousness who soon awaken in a house in the middle of some madman’s game. In addition to Lea we are introduced to priest Father Duffy (Dennis Hopper), The controlling Frenchman Francis (Hippolyte Giradot) and his retreating wife Cynthia (Julienne Davis), bitchy ex-pro tennis player Claire (Susie Amy), juvenile delinquent Shona (Morven Christie), the angriest British Black dude ever Al B. (Ashley Waters), fashion designer Max (Peter Capaldi) and stand up Cop Jay (Raffaelo Degruttolla). When they all gain consciousness they are obviously confused and concerned about where the hell they are and what they’re doing there. An ominous voice booms over a loud speaker alerting our nine that they are part of an experimental game and are being watched by over 75 cameras. There is no way out so don’t even bother to look, and the door exiting the house will open when only one is left alive. This surviving individual will receive five million dollars for surviving the game.

Bollocks! Exclaims our crew of nine international guests as Jay the cop assures them that nobody is going to die. Oh Jay you silly man. Peculiar that the host left Jay the Cop with his sidearm though. The host also had distributed tightly rationed food morsels, but managed to supply a seemingly endless supply of alcohol. He’s knows people quite well this dude. Our guests try to make nice with each other as best they could for as long as they could but all it takes is just one little spark of tinder on some dry hay to cause a raging inferno. Spark, thy name is Angry Black Guy. Ordinarily I would preface this as a spoiler but mere seconds after being introduced to the hostile rapper it’s fairly obvious that if something is going to happen he’s going to be the one to set it off. Needless to say, it is on and one will survive.

The best thing about ‘House of 9’ was the ending. I personally thought the ending was so sweet that screen writer Phillipe Vidal had the ending first then worked his way backwards from there. The story itself isn’t the most original as Agatha Christie had been sequestering strangers in houses decades earlier in her novel ‘And There were None’ (originally titled ‘Ten Little Niggers’ in case you need a little piece of literary trivia) and in the subsequent movies based on her book. There have also been similar films with the same theme more recently but I personally though the presentation of this story was superb. The challenge with this kind of film and the extremely limited available locations is to make the characters interesting to watch over the course of the movies running time, which director Stephen R. Monroe does manage with assistance from a capable cast, who also rose up to the challenge of having them descend into eventual madness travel at a believable arc. Since the first hour of the film was simply character interaction, when folks eventually started biting the dust it seemed a bit rushed and hackneyed. It was also a bit open ended in the way certain things happened which called into question if there was another person in the building, which seemed unlikely, and there were deaths to certain characters which went unanswered as to who was doing the killing.

One thing though, if I’m locked in building with a bunch of strange people I’m killing the Black dude first. Of course the fact I’m a Black dude throws a bit of wrench in my plans, but then I’ll just kill that OTHER Black dude first.

‘House of 9’ was a slick looking tightly produced piece of survival entertainment that made up for what it lacked in originality with plenty of style and a very clever ending. Direct to Video doesn’t always have to mean Direct to the garbage.

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