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Bauer Martinez Studios presents
House of 9 (2005)

"We can survive if we stick together."
- Claire (Susie Amy)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 13, 2006

Stars: Dennis Hopper, Kelly Brook
Other Stars: Susie Amy, Hippolyte Girardot, Peter Capaldi, Raffaello Degruttola, Ashley Walters, Morven Christie, Julienne Davis
Director: Steven R. Monroe

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language
Run Time: 01h:29m:58s
Release Date: February 14, 2006
UPC: 855280001014
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-C+C+ D-

DVD Review

The tagline for this one pretty much sums it up nicely. "Nine strangers. One house. Only one will get out... alive."

That's the premise, introduced right out of the box as nine abducted strangers wake up in a huge estate where all the doors are locked (or in some cases, bricked over) and windows are nonexistent. The purpose for them being there is referred to as "the ultimate test of human character," or at least that's what the creepy voice that talks to them over an intercom tells them. There are hidden cameras in every room so the unseen nutjob can watch the unraveling, and it's all a big mental mindf**k game, with freedom and a cash prize of $5 million for the last person alive.

The setup is vaguely familiar, most notably lifting elements from recent films like Saw and Cube, to say nothing of a classic work by Agatha Christie. We get a disparate band of strangers (though there is a married pair in the bunch) cautiously bonding and then mistrusting one another as eventually the dead bodies start piling up—until, of course, there can be only one. And the fun part in a film like this isn't necessarily trying to figure out who's going to live or die (that should seem clear early on even to the most casual film fan), but rather how it's going to happen and what's going to happen when it does.

Leading the charge is the most recognizable name in the cast, with the generally wild-and-crazy Dennis Hopper appearing here as the rational thinking Father Duffy. Hopper, despite his foreboding presence on the cover art, is miles away from Frank Booth territory in House of 9, and suffers the further indignity of trying to adopt a consistent Irish accent that rarely hits its mark. The cross-section of easily defined characters—including Susie Amy as "the prima donna bitch," Kelly Brook as "the nice girl," Ashley Walters as "the angry rap star," and Hippolyte Girardot as "the unstable French guy"—riccohet off each other to disrupt the dynamic until bad things start happening.

The wheel isn't necessarily reinvented in the storytelling of House of 9, and to be honest it's rare when a genre title doesn't outright mix-and-match from somewhere else. This is a streamlined little thriller that moves along rather quickly, though as a curious note for a film barely hitting the 90-minute mark is that there are no less than three music montages, two of which occur back-to-back. Director Steven R. Monroe shows an apparent liking for the use of slo-mo, and to his credit the montage bits do work in some weird way to show a mass of interaction amongst characters without the use of dialogue. I generally discount the use of such scenes as lazy, time-wasting filler—and underneath it all that's probably all they are here—but the scenes are cut well, even if they seem oddly juxtaposed against the film's obvious suspense element.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The good news is that this has been issued in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, while the transfer here is a bit grainy and the print is marred with a large amount of specking throughout. It's not an awful presentation—with regard to grain—and certainly within an acceptable range for a lower-tier title, but the amount of print debris is the most disconcerting. The overall tint is given a dominant blue steel hue, so there is a somewhat cold and metallic feel to the experience.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Your mileage may vary, but I experienced a slight problem with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which pushed the center channel to the right speaker, leaving the middle empty and causing a lopsided soundfield that forced me to view most of the film using the 2.0 surround option. Too bad, because the 5.1 offered some effective rear channel cues and a punchy bottom end, but I just couldn't handle the off-balance front mix, something that the 2.0 delivered far more modestly.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Defender, Citizen Verdict, The Number 1 Girl
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras to be found, save a small set of trailers for House of 9, Defender, Citizen Verdict and The Number 1 Girl. The disc is cut into 12 chapters.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

The wacky accent of Dennis Hopper aside, this kill-or-be-killed locked house thriller has its hip moments, borrowing from the playbooks of films like Cube and Saw. Fun stuff, especially if you like watching a group of strangers plot against each other for a big cash prize.

The transfer has a fair amount of specking, but this is still worth a rental.


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