by Scott Weinberg
Guess I'm just a softie for the ol' "Ten Little Indians with a technological flair" concept, because only the most passionate genre fans will be able to sit through House of 9 and be able to semi-recommend the thing to anybody else. You can see it for the hotties, for the nasty kill scenes, and for the always-insane Dennis Hopper at his most adorably weird.Take 33% Saw, 33% My Little Eye, 33% Cube, and 1% Dennis Hopper as a priest with a hilariously misshapen Irish accent, and you're close to understanding what goes on in the House of 9 -- only it's not as dark as Saw, as slick as My Little Eye, or as devilishly clever as Cube.
"Raise your hand if you'd kill Dennis Hopper for 5 million bucks."
All of which means that House of 9 is a latecoming, also-ran entry in the "dark side of reality TV" canon. It's also a distressingly dry and intermittently silly little thriller ... although one that's not totally without merit, provided you're an open-minded fan of the genre fare.
Here's the gist, and by "gist," what I really mean is "the entire plot." Nine total strangers awaken in a creepy, deserted mansion. They hear a voice over an intercom that says, essentially, "last person breathing gets out of this locked building with 5 million bucks in their hands."
And then everyone looks around at each other with that typical "Well, I'm sure as heck not gonna kill anyone!" look. (You know the one; you wear it when some teenagers are sitting behind you in a movie theater.)
So there's the long and short of House of 9: Nine contestants, a stocked bar, an empty house, tons of hidden cameras and microphones, and a gradually percolating air of "WTFism." The unwilling participants are mostly an unsavory lot; there's a stubborn cop, a confrontational rapper who hatez whitey, a stuck-up mega-hottie who hates everyone, an obnoxious Frenchman, a wholesome everygirl, and, yes, Dennis Hopper brandishing a priest's collar and an outlandishly unconvincing Irish brogue. (Mr. Hopper's always an entertaining presence, but his generally (and unintentionally) comedic presence is a real chink in the flick's armor.
Basically, House of 9 is half-compelling and half-tiresome, half-novel and half-plagiarized, half-exciting and half-boring. The story doesn't have nearly enough meat on its bones, yet once the "players" start getting drunk, aggravated, and armed, House of 9 picks up some solid steam. And there's a kicker in Act III that I, being a cold-hearted cynical creep, really quite enjoyed.
So while House of 9 is very familiar, somewhat dry, a more than a little past its expiration date, there's still some quality components to be found within. It's not the finest DTV horror/thriller I've ever seen, but it's damn far from the worst one, either.( © Review reprinted from DVDTalk, with permission from the author (me) and the DVDT management. For the full DVD specs on this particular movie, please visit www.DVDTalk.com and get friendly with the search bar.)
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originally posted: 02/13/06 23:51:03