Sometimes you have a need, a gnawing need at the pit of your soul that can only be satisfied by one thing: a bad movie. Not just bad, really bad. Derivative with a second-rate cast doing a third-rate job. The kind for which you have to make popcorn before watching so you’ll have something harmless to throw at the screen (hold the butter).
There are some directors revered for how awful they could make a film and there are some, like Chris Shadley, who may never attain that lofty position but will remain in our affections as a guy that gave it a shot and turned out something we love to hate.
Chris Shadley is the director of 2009’s Nine Dead. The plot is good, but it’s been done before (often), and the writing isn’t bad. Nine people are grabbed off the street and taken to a dungeon-like room where each is handcuffed to his or her own vertical pipe. Once assembled, their masked kidnapper tells them that they have to figure out why they are all there and he’s going to kill one of them every ten minutes until they figure it out.
Nine people, locked in a room, have to figure out what terrible things they did that unite them. There’s a Catholic priest, a man who seems to be gay, a young hood, an assistant district attorney, an insurance worker, a gangster, a mysterious black man, an Asian woman—perhaps Vietnamese, and a cop. Except for one or two, the deed done was part of their every day lives; the puzzle is “What could each one of these people have done that would connect them to the results of the actions of the other eight?” This is especially mystifying since the Asian woman can speak only two words of English.
Since no one except the gangster wants to disclose the skeletons in their closets, the abductees start dropping like clockwork (get it?). Unfortunately, the two most interesting characters—the black man and the maybe-gay guy—are early victims. My theory that they were being held by a deranged census taker is as valid as some of the abductees’ first guesses. As far as deranged, non-census-taking, kidnapping, killing maniacs go, the guy in charge here is pretty cool—something about the mask. Right before he kills someone, he asks “Why are you here?” to the group. They don’t know. Bang. Remember that when you have uninvited guests.
Were the dialogue crisp and original (and it doesn’t seem to be), it wouldn’t have remained so when delivered by this cast, headed up by Melissa Joan Hart (looking as if she could play Amy Adams mother—just an aside). Others in the cast are John Terry, Chip Bent, Lawrence Turner, Edrick Browne, Marc Macaulay, Lucille Soong, James C. Victor, and William Lee Scott. Daniel Baldwin is in Nine Dead, for about nine seconds (and he might have about nine words of dialogue, too); there’s absolutely no reason he would have accepted this role unless he owed someone a favor or didn’t have change for the parking meter. This isn't even a cameo or walk-on, he's an extra with a line.