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9 Dead (2010)

As a pre teen, I will put it out there that I watched a rather good number of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I will also put it out there that before that, as a kid I watched a decent number of episodes of Clarissa Explains it All. I only checked out the latter because I thought Clarissa was pretty. I only checked out the witch series quite frankly because there was nothing else on television and I kind of felt like it was dishonoring ABC’s then famed TGIF lineup if I didn’t watch every show within the two hours. Now that I look back at them, I really don’t think I ever laughed once at either show. Maybe a couple of times at Salem the cat in Sabrina but that was it. Besides some big screen projects, I actually don’t know why anyone ever thought Melissa Joan Hart could actually play anything but a teenager. To her credit, she did play those roles really well and was a famed child star and has been a writer/director/producer/singer and owns a candy shop. She will probably never go broke. But I can’t say I’ve ever seen her in anything memorable. I haven’t caught many of her adult roles, and I eventually will, but her film, Nine Dead, falls a little short.

With her production company, Hartbreak Films producing this movie, there’s no surprise that she is the most well known star in it. Without any explanation, a masked man systematically tasers and abducts random individuals in the opening of this film. He restrains all of them in a room together but never shows his face. With nine in total, they range between a district attorney, petty criminal, loan shark/ strip club owner, thief, pedophile/rapist, priest, health insurance agent, convenient store owner, and a police officer. Their captor assigns them a not so simple task: discover the reason why he has brought all of them there. The catch is they have ten minutes to do so or he will kill one of them and will continue to do so every ten minutes until they figure out the mystery that connects them all. If they successfully pull it off, then he promises to let them all go and turn himself in. Of course most of them believe he is bluffing until the first ten minutes is up and then one catches a bullet in the chest but not before the masked man confesses the secret to the person he kills.

The rest of the movie is filled with a combination of them desperately trying to solve the mystery which isn’t very easy with one of them being an elderly Asian woman who doesn’t speak any English and an attempt at escaping. One by one the crowd begins to thin out as personal secrets and misdeeds are confessed. They slowly begin to discover random connections between pairs and origin flashbacks are shown to display the stories vividly. Of course expressions of displeasure with each other are shared in abundance as the frustration builds along with the plot.

Each character has their own fears and concerns and even some ideas on life itself spread across the screen as they await their fate. You‘d probably be surprised on how philosophical one might get when faced with inevitable death. They all have some regret that the audience might be able to relate to on some level. Aspects such as turning your back on a friend or family member, having an affair, thinking about or committing a crime that you think might be insignificant but can hold a greater affect on something or someone else. The plot in this film written by Patrick Wehey Mahoney seems to start off revving its engine with great potential to be a cult thriller but runs out of gas about three quarters of the way through. With the ending in my opinion to be a complete let down, you eject the DVD or close out of this film thinking “what the hell was that?” Director Chris Shadely or Melissa Joan Hart herself who played the district attorney should never have considered this a finished script before shooting the movie.

The characters were trying to be mirrors of actual people, people who you might come across in real life or at least hear about on the news. Some of the actors were very believable as real people who happen to be in a very desperate situation. Others played their part a little too over the top while still others didn’t play much of a role at all. Being the leading lady in this one, I expected Hart to set the pace but some of the other actors kind of out did her. It looked like this movie was going the route of other films like Saw but then decided to change its mind and try to become its own movie. If you are a thinker or a “figure-it-out” artist, you might feel compelled to try to guess the mystery secret along with the characters but after realizing how far-fetched this special connection they share is, you’ll probably give up. Might be good for a late night lookie when you don’t feel like using your brain but still want a little suspense in your evening. I give Nine Dead “2.5 deadly mystery connections between almost complete strangers out of 5”.

-“Up until now, the order has been random. Just wanted to let you know that you’re next”
-“F**k you!”


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