Director – Steven R. Monroe
Cast – Dennis Hopper, Kelly Brook, Hippolyte Girardot, Peter Capaldi, Susie Amy, Raffaello Degruttola, Ashley Walters, Morven Christie, Julienne Davis, Jim Carter
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I had House of 9 on my queue for quite some time due to my love for Dennis Hopper, but this seemed like one of those ripoffs of Cube that seem to be coming our yearly these days. After reading some fairly positive reviews about how this film is underrated and is suffering an unfair rap I decided to give this a watch during one of my breaks at school (what else was I going to do, study?!?) and I can see why some would say that this flick has been treated unfairly. It is not a bad film by any means, and actually comes with a fairly good looking production value, but this is also not a good film by any means either, which I am going to have a hard time explaining to you.
Nine strangers with no commonalities between them are abducted and placed in a home adorned with dozens of video cameras. Upon awakening from a drug-induced stupor they come across a message stating that the last person to remain alive will receive a prize of 5 million dollars, and as the contestants aim for a peaceful resolution to this mess they soon learn that things will get bloody if anyone plans to leave the home alive.
Does this plot sound familiar? I constantly saw this film compared to Cube and Saw II, and rightfully so. We’ve seen this storyline numerous times, and on my case I actually enjoy this storyline as it usually results in social breakdown and gives me one element of horror that I absolutely love…nowhere to run.
The story starts off with our protagonists being drugged, forced into vans loved by pedophiles, and then awakening in a large home surrounded by strangers they have never seen before. It does not take long before we are given the reasoning behind their capture, and from then on out I expected good chaos and high tension throughout. While things are fairly tense at first, I was surprised to see this tension eventually fade away as the second act got started. In fact, we really do not see much action at all for the first 45 minutes of this piece, which pretty much came off as just a typical episode of a lame reality television show during that timeframe. Once things finally get going during the second half of the piece we are given some interesting character play regarding who dies and in what order they die, which came in pretty shocking fashion given just how brutal some of the kills were. It was this shock-and-awe usage of kills that made this film pretty enjoyable in my opinion, but the storyline also contained the same faults that held it back from a positive rating. Some of the character usage was risky and did not benefit the film in the end, which included a climax that I did not see coming and one that I somewhat enjoyed due to that but also disliked due to it being just a little too ambiguous. Ambiguity seems to be the biggest detractor for House of 9 as I felt there is just too much that goes unexplained in this story. I am all for mystery in a horror flick, especially one like this, but this one had just a bit too much left untold that told me either writer Philippe Nidal either did not have a clever enough idea behind the events going on or he was just too lazy to write one. Either way, it hurt the film.
Director Steven Monroe did a fairly good job executing this flick, which was initially his debut feature film despite a DTV release. If his name sounds familiar is because he has added a few notable films to his resume since this piece, including I Spit on Your Grave remake, Left in Darkness, and It Waits. The sets used are positive and Monroe provides a very dark and gloomy atmosphere for us to enjoy, and I was quite surprised at how enjoyable his musical score was – something I was not expecting. So how was his execution of the horror? Surprisingly enough his execution was just fine and pretty damn good at times. While not really his fault, the horror he provided was short-lived and that really held this piece back from being a great horror experience, and you can blame the screenplay for that. Some of the kill scenes were pretty gut-wrenching thanks to Monroe’s execution, one of which still pops in my mind several days after watching the film.
Overall, House of 9 is not a bad flick at all, but it receives a very mediocre rating due to it suffering some story issues and a strong lack of horror. If you enjoy films in the vein of Cube and Saw II then maybe you should check this out for yourself and see what you think of this, but I am pretty sure that you will agree with me in not hating this experience but not loving it either.