Take 33% Saw, 33% My Little Eye, 33% Cube, and 1% Dennis Hopper as a priest with a hilariously misshapen Irish accent, and you're close to understanding what goes on in the House of 9 -- only it's not as dark as Saw, as slick as My Little Eye, or as devilishly clever as Cube.
All of which means that House of 9 is a latecoming, also-ran entry in the "dark side of reality TV" canon. It's also a distressingly dry and intermittently silly little thriller ... although one that's not totally without merit, provided you're an open-minded fan of the genre fare.
Here's the gist, and by "gist," what I really mean is "the entire plot." Nine total strangers awaken in a creepy, deserted mansion. They hear a voice over an intercom that says, essentially, "last person breathing gets out of this locked building with 5 million bucks in their hands."
And then everyone looks around at each other with that typical "Well, I'm sure as heck not gonna kill anyone!" look. (You know the one; you wear it when some teenagers are sitting behind you in a movie theater.)
So there's the long and short of House of 9: Nine contestants, a stocked bar, an empty house, tons of hidden cameras and microphones, and a gradually percolating air of "WTFism." The unwilling participants are mostly an unsavory lot; there's a stubborn cop, a confrontational rapper who hatez whitey, a stuck-up mega-hottie who hates everyone, an obnoxious Frenchman, a wholesome everygirl, and, yes, Dennis Hopper brandishing a priest's collar and an outlandishly unconvincing Irish brogue. (Mr. Hopper's always an entertaining presence, but his generally (and unintentionally) comedic presence is a real chink in the flick's armor.
Basically, House of 9 is half-compelling and half-tiresome, half-novel and half-plagiarized, half-exciting and half-boring. The story doesn't have nearly enough meat on its bones, yet once the "players" start getting drunk, aggravated, and armed, House of 9 picks up some solid steam. And there's a kicker in Act III that I, being a cold-hearted cynical creep, really quite enjoyed.
So while House of 9 is very familiar, somewhat dry, a more than a little past its expiration date, there's still some quality components to be found within. It's not the finest DTV horror/thriller I've ever seen, but it's damn far from the worst one, either.
Video: It's a fairly clean and perfectly serviceable widescreen transfer.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo.
Just a handful of trailers for House of 9, Defender, Citizen Verdict, and Number 1 Girl.
Guess I'm just a softie for the ol' "Ten Little Indians with a technological flair" concept, because only the most passionate genre fans will be able to sit through House of 9 and be able to semi-recommend the thing to anybody else. See it for the hotties, for the nasty kill scenes, and for the always-insane Dennis Hopper at his most adorably weird.