Nine former friends have come together at a Scottish estate for a birthday celebration. Their celebration, though, is cut short when they find a mysterious book that explains the horrific history of what happened to one of the estate’s previous owners.
It’s some obviously foreboding stuff, and since it’s so clear none of the nine morons seen The Evil Dead, they just go on and keep reading it.
After discovering their literary find, the malevolent spirit who once owned the estate – a pissed off Scot named Murray who really hates Brits – is resurrected and one by one he beings unleashing his wrath on the nine friends.
Following in the vein of The Evil Dead, The Thing and Fallen, Nine Lives centers around a group of characters falling prey to an evil spirit/alien that possesses one soul after the other. While it lacks the star power and budget of Fallen, and John Carpenter’s massive production/art design from The Thing, that’s no reason for it not to be entertaining. The Evil Dead had no star power, no big budget and writer/director Sam Raimi wasn’t yet the filmmaker we now know him to be today, and that’s still a horror classic. But instead of being creative within his limits like Raimi was able to do, writer/director Andrew Green makes a horror film that’s as uneventful as one can get.
This is what we get when everything and everyone involved in the making of this film feels like taking the day off. The characters all have flatlined personalities, and we don’t ever see the evil spirit, which would’ve been fine (e.g., The Exorcist) if the characters were well-rounded enough to sell a genuine feeling of suspense, but – well, refer back to my point on them.
Hell, the film’s called Nine Lives, which refers to nothing more than the nine ill-fated characters. Even the title feels like half-assing it here.
What about the kills, though? They at least had to have put some effort into making the kills creative. Well, if your idea of a creative kill is one quick stab to the stomach that lets out just a tiny, ever so neat and tidy circle of blood on the shirt (none of which ever appear to have a stab tear) then the makeup crew’s Michelangelo and this film’s their Sistine Chapel. Hey, maybe there’s a reason for this. Perhaps the evil spirit is one of the following…
* Extremely efficient. Bam! One stab’s all he needs.
* Extremely timid. Maybe blood freaks him out just as much as it did Samuel L. Jackson in Kingsman?
* Extremely OCD. One stab penetration, perfectly center with the torso, followed by a release of blood that’s exactly 4″ in diameter. No more, no less, and if it’s either, the spirit has an unfortunate Rain Man like panic attack.
So with no kills, no thrills and no whatever else rhymes with both of those words just to appease my own OCD, what are we left with? A larger than needed amount of really boring characters. See, there are two ways you can about characters in a horror film. You can go the Evil Dead route and keep it down to a minimum. Sure, the characters in Raimi’s classic do some dumb things at times, but they’re at least likeable and the small number allows the group to be recognizable. Or you can throw in a large amount of characters. Going back to John Carpenter’s The Thing, that film has a ton of characters, but the performances and the writing gives them all great personality. You know who MacReady, Blair, Childs, Palmer, etc. are. I honestly couldn’t tell you who’s who in this film other than Paris Hilton who, as the spoiled, stuck up rich girl, is playing a variation of herself.
Okay, she’s pretty much playing exactly herself.
The studio must’ve had little faith in the characters and the actors portraying them as well since front and center on the poster, and the first name billed on said poster is Paris Hilton – the girl who dies first at around the 20-25 minute mark.
And that there’s the problem with this film. There’s no style, no substance, and no suspense. We’re pretty much stuck with these characters, which would be okay if I actually gave a rat’s ass about any of them or the mundane conversations about that one time they went skiing back in high school. And their lack of intelligence is astonishingly high. Yeah, I know that’s typically par for the course with horror films, but you normally don’t see dumb like this: While Andy is protecting Lucy, who looks like death’s knocking on her door, the next possessed contestant comes banging on the locked door. Andy walks over to the fireplace and grabs the poker, and you’re probably thinking he’s about to grow some balls and beat the shit out of whoever’s behind the door. Any rational thinking person would do that, but no, he walks over to a near-death Lucy and hands her the poker.
He hands her the poker.
Once again, he hands Lucy, who’s too weak to even lift up a small glass of water, a metal poker. I guess he expects her to have a sudden act of God awakening that gives her the strength to jump up from the couch and open up a can of whoop-ass on the demonic foe that awaits them.
There’s only so much stupidity a viewer can take before they’re literally hoping and praying for the villain to kill ‘em all. I mean, where’s Robert Durst when you really need him?
Even Green must’ve realized the stupidity in his characters was getting out of control, so to make amends for that, he has Amelia Warner’s character turn into Det. Columbo out of the blue and figure out the entire mystery of the estate, needing hardly any evidence or clues in order to do so.
Please, Mystery, Inc. wouldn’t need three acts to figure it out, and that’s with a quarter of them being perpetually stoned.
If you think Amelia’s sudden investigative skills are bad enough, just wait ’til you hear Pete’s epilogue which basically boils down the spirit’s motives to everyone else died ’cause they were British and Pete lives ’cause he’s Scottish.
Too bad the villain wasn’t Irish. We might’ve gotten a little more aggressive kills then.
Lastly, I normally don’t bring up the score unless it needs mentioning. Every now and then, you get a score that embodies the film so perfectly (for horror you have The Exorcist, Halloween, The Thing and then there’s epic themes such as Star Wars, Superman, Jaws - okay, hell, anything John Williams), but for the most part, while not epic, the scores usually tend to serve the film just fine. So it takes a massive dropping of the ball with the score to really come off as distracting like it does here. Now, we can overlook the carbon copy ripoff of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme that plays over the opening credits. What can’t be overlooked, however, is when the score abruptly transitions into some dollar store knockoff of an epic Howard Shore soundtrack. It’s then that I shouldn’t be seeing early 20-somethings hopping out of cars and greeting each other outside some fancy estate. No, I’m now expecting to see the Fellowship fight the Nazgul on Weathertop hill.
It’s not so much the score that stands out, as it is just how oddly placed they have it throughout the film. Certain moments have the trumpets crescendoing in heroic fashion when the scene is nothing more than the two main characters exiting a doorway as they prepare to kill their possessed friend, probably by way of another boring single stab.
What we see is: “… Whelp… I guess we’re gonna – uh – go kill our friend now… so – uh – yay.”
What the music makes you think you’re seeing is Gandalf the Grey standing before the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum bellowing, “YOOOOOOOOUU… SHALL NOT PASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
It goes without saying that pushing an extended cameo appearance by Paris Hilton to sell Nine Lives carries as bad of an omen, if not worse, as the one the ill-fated characters face in this film. Yet as extremely tedious and generic – and by generic I mean store brand no sugar added vanilla ice cream generic – pretty much every aspect of this film is, she’s hardly the worst thing about this movie; she’s more like the 64th worst thing about this movie. Most surprisingly, however, is that Hilton’s character makes out like a bandit as the most intelligent out of the nine. That really doesn’t say much about her character, but more about just how dumb and clueless the other eight are.