Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie Review: The Dentist

 Brian Yuzna, the director, never fails to make an... interesting film.  While he is infamous for his work as the director of Re-Animator, The Dentist is a far more subtle, but equally ghoulish outing.

 Dr. Feinstone is a perfectionist.  He has a lovely house, a lovely wife, and a dentist practice that is setting the standards for patient care an experience.  Unfortunately, the rest of the world falls far short of his own high standards.  He sees decay and filth everywhere.  He is so obsessed that he must take a prescription in order to manage is tension and anxiety.   

 When he discovers that his wife is banging the pool-guy, he is pushed over the edge.  The body-count rises as he hallucinates during oral surgery, plots to mutilate his spouse and her lover, and deal with anyone who inadvertently discovers his activities or threatens his practice.  
He just really wants you to floss.

 The Dentist has some gory moments, but it relies more on our own psychological issues with going to the dentist to make us cringe.  The hardest scene for me to stomach was not the forcible extraction, but the needle going into the gum for to deliver some anesthetic for a minor procedure.  Of course, everything is over-the-top and stereo-typed.  The pool-guy is a scuzzy but buff stud, the detective is dogged and hard-nosed, the IRS agent is a weaselly worm, the wife is a real bitch.  Dr Feinstone is almost sympathetic, a victim of the decay that surrounds him.  
Imagining a hot client is your slutty wife is going to get you sued.

 The Dentist, for me, falls short of being a good film.  Perhaps I was expecting the doctor to be a bit more sadistic, that the effects were too subtle and the gore too minimized.  Despite having an R rating, it is like the film was going for a PG-13, and but for a few bare breasts was edged over to an R. The Dentist has some cringe-worthy moments, but was mostly a yawner.




Tooth decay can be a real bitch.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Movie Review: ThanksKilling

 Bad movie maker! Bad!  No turkey for you!

 A foul-mouthed, demonic, turkey hand-puppet wastes 70 minutes of your life killing 4 of 5 college-aged "actors" (and I use that word in the loosest sense) and their support cast in the most implausible and cheaply depicted manner possible.  The ONLY boobs at the beginning of the film are old and saggy, the way you will feel after watching this movie.

 In the one sex-scene, tell me the male actor is not fucking her clearly with her skirt down.  Talk about chaffing.

You're doing it wrong.

Movie Review: Vamp

 Vamp is not a good film, but it has so many high-points that it is easy to understand why it is a cult classic.  What is does is successfully merge horror and comedy, an accomplishment rarely achieved.

 Released in 1986, this has to be one of the earliest films to setup vampires as owning and working in a strip-club.  Horror fans obsession with the vampire symbol as cool and chic had not quite caught-on yet.  Some of the stereotypes are in place; college kids run afoul of monsters, the hero is a clean-cut "athlete" who's wise-cracking cool friend gets him in trouble, and the female love-interest is a blonde airhead.  Vamp is carried not by its premise.  Instead, it is carried by numerous intelligent one-liner's, zingers, and hints of a deeper back-story.

 The film starts by mocking the typical premise. Two best friends, Keith and AJ, are pledging to the same frat, and call the frat on their cheesy initiation ritual.  They propose that if they are allowed to join the frat, they will bring a stripper to the frat's initiation party.  They seek out a wealthy nerd, Duncan, for transportation to the city and select from a newspaper a strip-club that opens ambiguously "after dark".  

Wire cones: making breasts where none exist.
 The club is in the seedier part of town.  The businesses, like a diner they stop at, close at sundown.  After running into some street-toughs, the three college boys find the club.  AJ, the cool half the the duo, goes back stage to negotiate with the hauntingly statuesque stripper, Katrina.  Katrina is the head vampire, and after toying with AJ feeds on him.

 Keith, the clean-cut one, notices that AJ has been gone for sometime.  With the aid of a waitress, Amaretto, who just started working at the club and is a childhood friend that Keith does not remember, Keith discovers that his friend is missing and begins to suspect something is amiss.  Of course, now the vampires are aware that AJ was not alone and are determined to kill Keith, Duncan, and Amaretto.

Mascara, contacts, and fangs.  GRR! I'm a vampire!
 In and of itself, the plot is not too deep.  It is all the interesting tidbits and dialogue that drive the film and set it apart.  Hints are dropped throughout the film that Katrina is an ancient vampire, hailing from Egypt during the time of Pharaohs.  Her assistants are also obviously from a different era; the bouncer's name is Vlad and seems to have a romantic history with Katrina, and Vic the maitre-d' was once the club owner in the 40s or 50s.  AJ is the funny-man of the duo, with memorable lines throughout the movie (AJ is telling Keith what will kill a vampire, remarking that he has a list somewhere).  AJ, Keith, and even Duncan are likeable characters, instead of the douche-bags that are common to these kinds of films.  The film is full of 80s "cool", which seems laughable by modern standards.
Well, maybe not as much as her.

 The special effects are decent.  The vampires range from simple zombie make-up to full on demons.  The blood-and-gore is not too over-the top, with the most gruesome scene probably being when a throat is violently ripped out.  The sets are not bad as well, save that the sewer-system the characters use throughout the film appears to be lit by purple and green club-lights.  Even the nudity is minimal and not overly done.  Most of the strippers strip down to a bikini or pasties.  Despite being a 'B' horror film, the focus is on the story and not on the gore or TNA.

Just wants a classy joint.
 Grace Jones was an odd choice as Katrina for this film.  Ms. Jones had made her mark as an singer and performer in the New York Club scene and a model.  She hit her acting peak in A View to a Kill a year before in my opinion.  Her androgynous appearance didn't make sense for the seductress, but in that time Ms. Jones was known for her flamboyance, strength, and temper.  Those qualities probably enhanced the primal and animalistic aspects of the character.

 Vamp is an example of campy horror that is well done.  It is smarter than most, subtle in just the right way, and given to making fun of itself.  More for entertainment that frights, Vamp is worth the watch.



Friday, December 7, 2012

Movie Review: Grave Encounters

 I still have goose-bumps from this film.  Grave Encounters is simply awesome.  It is easily one of the BEST horror films I have seen.

 A reality-TV crew sets up to stay the night in an abandoned asylum rumored to be haunted.  The place has a history of some problems in its past, but nothing to extraordinary.  The film features the raw footage the crew shot, only edited for time.  You get to see the set-up, how jaded they are about the reality of "ghosts", and even that they are willing to pay people to lie to get a good bit of film.  The shows host, Lance, clearly wants to believe in ghosts.  He believes he saw something as a kid, and has been looking ever since, but now 6 episodes into the show and he is getting frustrated and beginning to think it is all BS.

 Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, however, has something to show Lance and his crew.

That's Lance on the Left.  He's a douche-bag.
 In many ways, this film is reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project.  It is shot from a first-person view-point and is established as found footage depicting actual events.  That is probably where the comparisons end.  I spent nearly an hour and a half wincing, waiting for the visual-sting that I expected around every corner.  The film quickly sets you on edge and then leaves you there until the credits.

 The things that really sets this film apart is the way it was shot.  Despite the wide-screen format, your field of vision is limited to the small disc of a flashlight, often in UV-green, almost the entire film.  Much of the action happens off-camera, either between shots or while the cameras are pointed away or black.  You can hear people screaming and running, but that's it.
Pro-Tip: This would be easier to read on her front.

 The creepy intensity of the film builds.  You see things moving on their own, signs of the presence of something else, well before the characters do.  You fully expect something to happen, but masterfully, the film does not fulfill that expectation in the way you expect.  The "stings" one might assume are throughout this film almost not used, with each sighting being introduced by something.  There is the flash of someone running across a hall, the sound of laughter or something approaching, sometimes even a bit of blood...

Eternity being this guy.  I'd be pissed, too.
 Because of all of this, the need for special effects is minimal.  You get to see the ghosts, eventually, but even they are freaky for only a moment, just enough to leave a terrifying after-image in your mind.  The acting was superb, and the story well-paced.  Your are in Grave Encounters for 92 minutes, and it does not let you go.

 The only downside for me is that the film is missing a book-end.  The film opens with the producer of the television show explaining that you are about to see the raw footage found from the Grave Encounters crew, and how it is real.  I would have liked a closing statement, something explaining how the film was found, how the characters are still missing, maybe even a fake FBI info shot offering a reward leading to information about the where-bouts of the missing characters.

 There's a sequel.  I just hope it can live up to this film.  See Grave Encounters, a spook-house ride unlike any which has been filmed in a long time.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Movie Review: Chain Reaction/House of Blood

 Yep, here we go.  One of those films that had to be re-marketed and released under a different title, probably because the first attempt failed miserably.  

 Pro tip: Changing the title will not help if you are re-naming a bad film.

 Dr Doug Madsen is involved in a freak accident with a prison transport bus and is taken hostage by four bad dudes, one who has been shot in the arm.  The wander around the woods in northern Washington state and discover a large cabin housing an odd, apparently uber-religious family.  The baddies proceed to terrorize this family who implores them to leave, only to discover they should have listened when almost the entire clan turns into some kind of vampire/zombie hybrid.  With the help of the one family member who does not turn into a monster (who also happens to be his mother), Madsen escapes only to be captured by the cops and held as a prisoner for the apparent deaths of the escaped inmates and 5 other unknown victims (unmatched blood on his clothes from the family in the woods).  

Tastes like chicken.
 While being transported by prison bus to jail, another freak accident on the same stretch of lonely road puts Madsen back with a pack of bad dudes, who head back to the house again.  The monsters attack again and dispatch the baddies, and this time Madsen and his mother manage to escape.  When they reach the road, Madsen and his mother accidentally cause a driver to overturn his vehicle as he swerves to miss the pair, and then Madsen is hit by a prison bus in yet another freak accident on that same stretch of lonely road.  Mom gets shot in the head, but vamps out as the film ends.

Wants to be Hannibal Lector.  Too bad he's not.
 There is an interesting premise here.  A "family" of penitent vampires is living out in the woods trying to gain control of their hunger.  One of the clan has not only been successful, she has even managed to mate with a human being and have a human child.  In come four dangerous criminal escapees and momma's little boy, now himself an old man.  What happens when this family deals with these inmates would make for a great horror story.

Those are bed-sheets.
 But, nah, let's instead have you believe that the state penal system continues to loose prison buses on the same stretch of lonely road on what appears to be a regular basis.  Hell, if not that, then that after loosing 2 buses on that route they would send a third.  Oh, and that a citizen with no criminal background plus the education and social status of a doctor tells the police that he was the hostage of 4 murderous escapees who managed himself to get away as they and the family the holed-up with slaughtered one another and the cops hold him accountable for the deaths! 

 Not very likely.

This is as gory as it gets.
 In an effort to, I don't know, make the film more "artsy", it is edited in a disjointed fashion, with bits and pieces of the future and the past being cut into the present story.  Sometimes, this works, especially when it is inherent to the tale.  It is completely unnecessary here.

 Not very likely.

 The acting wasn't bad.  You could tell that everyone on camera believed in the project and took their roles seriously.  Special effects were all old-school, lots of blood splatters and latex-flesh (nothing spectacular but not bad). The cinematography was rough, as was the production quality.  The story, though, is where this film was really lacking.   


Friday, November 30, 2012

Movie Review: Alien

 There are a handful of horror films which I consider my favorites.  Alien is very near the top of that list.

 To fully be appreciated, I think it is necessary to understand the landscape in which Alien arose.  Two years before its release, Star Wars had blown the minds of most of the world.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released that same year.  Both of these films presented the alien from outer-space as mysterious, potentially dangerous, but ultimately familiar, comprehensible, and even friendly to mankind.  

 The modern revision of most fairy-tales we are familiar with presents something just outside our common experience, working for the good or ill of man, which a hero ultimately deals with leading to a happy ending.  Most fairy-tales in their original, however, were far darker stories meant as warnings not to stray to far from the well lit and traveled path.  Alien is a dark fairy-tale, like those of old, a warning that the unknown is likely to be hostile to our intervention.  No matter how advanced we may become, there will always be something which we cannot understand, which cannot be negotiated with, and wishes nothing but harm.

So happy to see you that you get a hug!
 The Nostromo is a towing vessel assigned to retrieve a deep-space mining rig and return it to near-Earth space.  On the way, the ship's computer detects a signal that appears to be from an intelligent source.  It changes course and wakes the crew from cryo-sleep to investigate.  While I won't get fully into the hints of conspiracy that are present here and explored in later films, there is the suggestion that they are well off-course, almost to the point that the ship's route would have had to have been changed to encounter the signal in the first place.

Don't order the special.
 The unnamed planet has a hostile, but not impassible environment.  The crew takes The Nostromo down and discovers and alien vessel with what appears to be a long-dead pilot who died violently.  In what may be the cargo-hold, hundreds of leathery eggs  stand covered in a strange mist.  Kane, one of the ship's pilots, studies one of the eggs as it opens, releasing a crab or spider-like alien with a long, prehensile tale that punches through his environmental-suit visor and attaches itself to his face.

 The crew discovers, in short time, that this was just the beginning of their nightmare.

In about 3 years, they will give you E.T. to take the nightmares away.
 The film's strength is in its direct appeal to the pathos of the viewer.  The score is almost always present and often barely audible, remaining ominous throughout the film and underscoring the tension that builds throughout.  Like the horror films of the past, the filmography relies more on what is unseen, even with an award winning  visual effects including the set and creature design by H.R. Giger and costume designs by Moebius.  One of the most iconic monsters in modern horror films spent the majority of the first film hiding in dark corners and seen only in brief flashes or extreme close-ups.  Director Ridley Scott gave each of the seven actors a back-story about their characters and held several improvisational rehearsals to help generate familiarity and tension among them.  Each of the characters are easy to identify with, just working-class people trying to get home.  Nothing spectacular sets them apart from anyone else, which means it could literally be any one of us on that ship.  

Underwear in space.  Someone needs to tell Carrie Fisher.
 The special effects and set-designs were on the leading edge of the industry at the time.  The chest-buster scene has become a part of the fabric of our collective consciousness, even those who have never seen the film recognize it in parody.  The acting is excellent throughout.  I have read some sources that suggest that some of the emotional tension was not an act, that Scott kept the actors awake for long periods of time and intentionally harassed them in order to keep the convincingly frazzled.

Sets like this win awards.
 The story's deepest strength is that it is one of the prime myths of humanity, akin to the tale of Gilgamesh.  The small and fragile band of humans are harried by a monster, a dragon or serpent of old, deep in the wilderness and far from civilization.  The monster means to destroy them, and it is up to one of them to discover their internal heroism and face the monster as well as their own fears.  In this tale, the princess and the hero happen to be one-and-the-same, the character Ripley.  The death of the alien itself even mirrors the Gilgamesh epic.  It is one of our oldest tales, an archetype that is one of the deepest roots of our mythology.

 Alien stands apart from all other films about monsters in space, including its own sequels and spin-offs. 



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Movie Review: Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!

 You know what you are getting into before you even start the film.  It's a low-budget film ($30,000) about zombies, strippers, drugs, and prostitutes.  You can safely assume you will not be watching the next horror-masterpiece. That said, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! is moderately entertaining and not nearly as bad as you might expect.

 The film makes use of four sets to tell the story; the strip club, a diner, a laboratory, and a street.  The set-up is simple enough, a local scientist is striving to develop a cure for cancer by creating an "anti-cancer" cell, a cell that copies and regenerates lost cells.  As a favor to a friend, he has also made a synthetic drug that mimics the effects of crack-cocaine without the addictive and harmful qualities.  One night at the lab, a mishap results in the two experimental compounds being mixed, and the addict unknowingly distributes the tainted drug to some local prostitutes.

 The prostitutes have an ongoing rivalry with the strippers at the local club.  There appears to be some history between the two groups; one of the stripper may have worked for pimp Johnny "Backhand" Vegas in the past, and one of the prostitutes is a former stripper or former friend of one of the strippers. The two crews mix it up at the local diner, where the debate between who is "better" seems to rage each evening.  A couple of the prostitutes have partaken in the tainted drug, and during what was about to become a brawl in the diner parking-lot they turn into flesh-eating zombies.  The survivors retreat to the strip-club and barricade themselves inside.  Outside, the zombies attack anyone who shows up in the parking lot, resulting in an increasing number of zombies to await additional victims and to pound on the doors of the club.

Seems legit.
Tits of the damned!
Despite the blood and gore, you can still smell the skank on them.
 The acting is, in a word, bad.  A few of the actors manage to be convincing in their roles.  Having never dealt with a pimp, I can't be certain if the Johnny character is over-the-top or typical for a pimp.  He is obnoxious to a fault, and you can tell in his "death" scene that the writers and director intend for you to relish his demise.  Dakota, one of the stripper, is openly a bitch, but manages to feel some remorse about being a bitch by the end of the film.  The female protagonist, Dallas, is so much the stereotype that she nearly vanishes from interest when compared to the other, more fractured characters.

 The traditional special effects are passable, nothing spectacular as far as zombies are concerned but better than some films.  The CGI is at times laughable, in particular the zombie explosions.  Except for the climax of the film, there really is no CGI to speak of (barring a few head-shots and dismemberments), so the CGI at the climax really stands out.  Most of the money for this film appears to have gone to special effects and topless actresses, but you can tell that the intro and outro credits cost a pretty penny. 

 Despite how bad the film is, I recommend watching though the credits for the "bonus" scene.  It is more of the same, but at least there is a solid effort at humor in it.







Monday, November 26, 2012

Moview Review: Burn, Witch Burn

 While watching this film, I could not shake the feeling that I was watching an episode of The Twilight Zone.  It wasn't just the similarity in production, the film was shot in 1962 when The Twilight Zone was at its peak.  Both share similar film techniques such as the use of inky-black scenes and forced perspective.  What really locks the comparison in for me is that, like The Twilight Zone, we have the world as we know it running along what we assume is its normal and rational course only to uncover that the world is far more weird and fantastic that we could imagine.

 Norman Taylor is a professor at prestigious college who gives classes on what appears to be philosophy and critical thinking.  His opening class is about the fallacy of superstition and his premise that superstition derives its power from belief; if you do not believe then the superstition has no power over you.  He is young, popular, and is quickly moving up the ranks in the college, bucking for a promotion to a seat as head of his department.  He and his wife, Tansy, are new to the area, but engage in all the right social functions with the other professors and administrators of the college.  

Real men wear their waistbands around their navels.
 Tansy, unlike Norman, is not skeptical about the supernatural.  In fact, her secret (and possibly the secret to Norman's success) is that she practices witchcraft learned from a shaman while she accompanied her husband on an anthropological study.  She uses the magic to protect herself and her husband as well as ease their advancement in society.  She discovers that a dark power is conspiring against them, and does what she can to keep it at bay.

 However, when Norman discovers his wife's secret hobby, he hits the roof, insisting she burn all her protective trinkets and magical wares.  Immediately, they fall under assault from the forces that oppose them, and Norman quickly must come to terms with his disbelief and discover who is behind these attacks.  

He's beginning to re-think this whole "skeptic" thing.
 The film does plod along a bit.  Norman seems to vacillate between belief and disbelief instead of simply accepting the evidence after the 2nd or even 3rd incident.  The story does a good job of flirting with his wife Tansy being the antagonist as well before revealing the true nemesis.  The acting seems a little over-the-top at times, but that seems to be just how things were done in the 1960s, lots of drama.

Of all the ways to kill yourself...
 Burn, Witch Burn is a classic horror film meant for the more high-brow set.  While not overly interesting for any particular aspect of the film, it is worth watching.

Movie Review: Pleasures of the Damned

 The budget to make this film was $2000.

 Yep.

 The horror genre is unique in that an awful horror-film can be considered a success based on just how bad it was.  You cannot do that with other genres.  A bad comedy is just not funny.  A bad drama is boring.  A bad horror-film, however, can be HILARIOUS.

 Pleasures of the Damned is what happens when some guys with a minimal budget, a minimal amount of special effects know-how, and a lot of time on their hands decide to make a film.  IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE BAD.  That is the whole point, and its appeal.  It is a parody, a spoof, something to watch while drunk with friends just to see if they can appreciate just how awful this film is.

 The set-up is great.  In the 1970s an Italian film-maker makes this film, Pleasures of the Damned, and then spends a few decades in prison before he can release it.  Now, the film has been re-mastered and released to the public. 

This is the only nudity in the film, so enjoy it.
 Which is of course a lie.

 A bunch of guys, most in cheap wigs (and not like "oh it's too bad they didn't spend money on a better wig" but "OH MY GOD THAT IS OBVIOUSLY A CHEAP WIG), are a Satan-worshiping biker-gang.  I don't think there is a motorcycle in the whole film.  It's the 1970s, except many of the cars and items used in the film are modern.  The biker-gang is a cell in a larger organization that includes a more typical cult lead by an enigmatic, sexually ambiguous character who maintains a stable of followers/slaves.  I am fairly certain that at least two actors play this character during different scenes in the film.

Wigs... wigs everywhere.
 The film is dubbed-over with a painfully out-of-sync voice-track, again adding to just how successful the crew was in producing a "bad" film.  Most of the film is shot in the backrooms of a couple of houses or out in the woods somewhere, and involves a lot of ridiculous conversation and close-ups of the actors.  The film includes a schlock filming enhancement called "psycho-vision" which is warned to alter the senses of the viewer during particular scenes and comes with an auditory cue before the film goes to a red monotone and flashes a negative of the image, mocking the "trippy" film enhancements attempted in the 1970s.

Seems legit.
 All the nonsense of the film really only showcases the one scene where real money was probably spent.  This is when one of the female protagonists bites off and spits out the penis of her assailant her forced her to perform fellatio.  Making a bloody severed penis and paying an actress to simulate a blow-job and spit the FX item on to the ground is probably where most of the money was spent.

 If you have an hour-and-a-half to waste, and some friends with a sick sense of humor, this film could be a good time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Movie Review: Case 39

 Emily is a Child Protective Service worker with a huge workload.  Her work keeps her from having a deeper relationship with her child-psychiatrist boyfriends, and she is almost at her limit when her boss gives her yet another case to work, her 39th case.  

 The case involves Lilith, a 10 year-old girl who's grades have slipped from A's to D's in the last 3 months and who is withdrawn from her fellow students.  While there are no signs of physical abuse, Emily is sent to investigate the possibility of mental abuse or neglect.  The in-home interview goes badly, Lily's mother and father are less-than forthcoming and helpful.  When they are called into the office, however, they attempt to play the interview off as a misunderstanding.  Lily, in a moment alone with Emily, confides that her parents are planning to hurt her, but when she is asked to make a recorded statement she refuses.  

 Something about this case concerns Emily, even though her boss says there is nothing they can do.  She meets Lily after school and gives Lily her home phone-number.  Lily calls the night she thinks her parents are going to hurt her as she apologizes for falling asleep.  Emily contacts her police-detective friend and they arrive just in time to rescue Lily from being roasted alive in her parent's oven.  

Puberty is a bitch.
 Lily's parents go to prison, and Lily makes it clear that she wants to live with Emily.  After some bureaucratic wrangling, Emily gets temporary custody of Lily.  At first, things seem to go well.  Then, people start dieing, and it becomes ever more clear that Lily is not at all what she seems.

 Case 39 is a good film. Renee Zellweger plays a convincing social worker, and is supported by a strong case, including Bradley Cooper and Jodell Ferland.  The cinematography is top-notch, and because of the kind of film it is what little special effects are required were well done.  The film reminds me a lot of The Omen, with exception of the child being older and fully aware of its nature.

There are certain parts of town you don't eat in.
 My only real concern about the film is, once again, we have this powerful being who manages to disguise itself and insinuate itself amongst its victims by appearing innocent.  If that is the case, why ever reveal yourself?  Why not continue to simply be a victim of strange circumstances and coincidences?  While that may be part of the demon's destructive process, doing so also endangers the monster.  Also, its powers seem to be inconsistent.  One moment it is pounding through a bolted wood door, the next it is capable of only casting illusions to confuse its victims.  Which is it.

 It was rated 'R', but 'PG-13" would probably be make more sense.  It is an interesting story, but not terribly frightening.



Monday, November 12, 2012

Movie Review: Nine Dead

 Another Saw rip-off?  Not quite.

 Nine seemingly random strangers are attacked and abducted by a hooded figure wearing mask.  They find themselves in an empty room together each hand-cuffed to a different pole.  Their captor explains that they must discover what links them all and why they are here.  He will kill one of them every 10 minutes until they do or they are all dead.  If they figure it out, the survivors go free and he will confess to his crimes.

 So, this is billed as a horror film, but there wasn't really anything that scarey about it.  No torture devices, no monster, no demonic forces... Just a lunatic with a gun and nine people who are more messed-up than they care to admit to strangers.  Had Saw not been made, this film would have probably been considered an interesting short dramatic story.

All these people suck.
 The story is interesting and arguably well written, unlike some of the hack-kneed Saw rip-offs it follows.  The acting is also fair, although this is clearly meant to be a vehicle for Melissa Joan Hart to step beyond her Sabrina the Teen Witch days.  The films is simple, and its simplicity has some merit.  It is shot almost entirely in the one room occupied by the characters and is each character is shot there is a minimal need for special effects.  The story is carried almost entirely by the actors ability to portray their characters and react to the situation.

This is as scarey as it gets.
 That said, Nine Dead is not a great film.  The negative aspect of its simplicity is that it is at times boring.  You don't really get to know any of the characters, other than discovering you don't like them and they all deserve to die... not for their crimes but for simply being annoying.  Granted, you may only have 10 minutes to get to know each of them, but the amount of egoism in one room seems a little unbelievable.  It is as if posturing between some of the characters was more important than their mutual survival.  

 Also, we have Melissa Joan Hart's character's rape.  It has nothing really to do with the story.  The character confesses to being raped; assaulted in a parking lot, taken into a van, beaten, clothes "ripped off", and raped.  She recovers, grabs a baseball bat that was in the van, and beats her rapist to death.  The beating is depicted, showing the character bloodied and dirty, beating something just off-screen.  The problem is, she is fully clothed.  She was just beaten and raped, but before grabbing the bat and retaliating against her attacker she puts on her pants, bra, and a shirt.  

 People who expect some continuity to their murder confessions will be taken right out of the film there.  

 You can skip this one.