House of 9 (2005)

Steven R. Monroe

Dennis Hopper - Father Duffy
Kelly Brook - Lea
Hippolyte Girardot - Francis
Susie Amy - Claire Leevy
Morven Christie - Shona
Peter Capaldi - Max Roy
Asher D - Al B
Raffaello Degruttola - Jay
Julienne Davis - Cynthia
Jim Carter - The Watcher (voice)

Genre - Horror/Thriller/Survival

Running Time - 90 Minutes

After being kidnapped individually one night, nine people wake up inside a large mansion. They have no idea how they got there, who brought them there, and who each other is. Suddenly, some voice tells the group of strangers that the house has been wired with a bunch of hidden cameras and microphones for the purpose of being entertained by them. His form of entertainment involves the group attempting to murder each other, with the survivor gaining freedom and a $5 million prize. Sounds like a show made for the FOX network.

Not wanting to commit murder, the group tries to find any sort of exit - realizing there's none. They only get fed during certain times and have only music and booze to keep them company. While the first few hours are peaceful and friendly, cabin fever sets in and the tension mounts. Realizing that they need to kill each other in order to get out of this game, these nine people start growing paranoid and keeping secrets from each other as the blood begins to pour.


- A tired, yet awesome premise. A plot where a group of strangers find themselves in an unknown location, where their only chance of freedom is killing the others, is nothing new in the horror genre. We've seen it in CUBE. We've seen it in MY LITTLE EYE. We've seen it in SAW II. We've seen it in countless other films. It's a premise horror filmmakers go to time and time again because it's cost effective and could lead into some decent tension and/or gore.

HOUSE OF 9 is pretty much a tamer version of the films I just mentioned. It's also very predictable and you have no doubt who will survive and who won't. But the premise is an entertaining one - one that usually gets my attention in the horror genre. Why? Because I like seeing how filmmakers present the tension between people who have to compete for a prize, especially when it concerns life and death. Some go towards a violent portrayal, while others will focus on a more cerebral approach.

HOUSE OF 9 is definitely more cerebral, as it focuses on the characters and how they behave, rather than gory traps. While there could have been some more substance and character development [I'll get into that later], at least the stereotypes are better than nothing and it allows the viewer to sort of understand where each character is coming from and why they act the way they do. Things get interesting once the food supply is less and less and the host of this game starts messing with them by raising the temperature and planting stuff in the house to create paranoia amongst the characters. After the first person is killed accidentally, the tension grows and the characters start to distrust each other and make desperate decisions. It's like Survivor, but with murder.

That's why this premise works because no matter how many times you see it, it never gets less interesting. Human nature and instinct take over, making us question what we would do ourselves if in the same situation. Does HOUSE OF 9 have the greatest, or most interesting, script in the world? No. But it gets the job done for the most part and I was never bored. Definitely a passable screenplay and premise, even if we've seen it before and done much better.

- The acting. This isn't the greatest cast of actors in the world, but I felt they did a decent job making the viewer like or dislike their characters. Dennis Hopper plays an Irish priest with a terrible accent. But besides that, he's pretty good in the role. Not his best work [the accent does get distracting at times - don't know why he HAD to be an Irish preist], but it's always great to have him in any film. Kelly Brook is also quite good in her role as Lea, a dancer with a conscience. Brook is more known for her looks than for her acting, but I really liked her and thought she gave a subtle and likeable portrayal that makes you want to see her survive. Hippoltye Girardot as Francis was probably the best actor in the film. He's your typical prick who only cares about himself. I dug his arc the most and he was definitely convincing in the role. Asher D was cool as the bad boy rapper, Al B. He's the center of most of the tension and Asher D plays it off well with the other actors. Raffaello Degruttola was also cool as Jay, the cop. No award worthy acting here, but they're all good enough to make the film watchable.

- The competent direction. It has its issues, but Steven R. Monroe does a more than decent job visualizing HOUSE OF 9. I think the best part was the use of the location to really bring out tension and atmosphere. The film only takes place inside of this large mansion with its locked doors and seemingly lack of windows. And even though much of the film takes place in wide open spaces, as opposed to tiny rooms [where there are], there's a feel of claustrophobia that provides a creepy and trapped experience while watching the film. Monroe uses the setting very well, as if the mansion is a character in itself. I really like how Monroe slowly goes from more open areas towards smaller areas [like bedrooms and bathrooms] as the film progresses, building up some nice tension and suspense at times.

Other than that, the editing is good. The film, probably shot on digital, looks very nice. There is some nice composition, framing, and a bit of style going on here. I felt once people started getting killed, the intensity increased. Monroe does a good job directing HOUSE OF 9. It's not perfect, mind you, but I dug what Monroe mostly brought to the table.

- The ending. Like with most of these type of films, HOUSE OF 9 has a twist ending. In most modern horror films, it seems as if the screenwriter focuses on the twist first, focusing on what comes before it as second. While it's always good to have some form of cool ending in mind while writing, a lot of the time the story that leads to it tends to have lack of logic or have nothing in common with the twist itself. At this point, a twist ending has become so cliche that we get somewhat disappointed by it - either because we see it coming a mile away or because it really makes no sense. HOUSE OF 9, luckily, has a twist ending that I did not seeing coming at all. In fact, I thought it was very cool and loved how it was presented in terms of mood and visually. I won't spoil it if you're interested, but I actually chuckled at it and thought how messed up it was. Maybe it's not the most plausible twist in terms of reality, but it definitely elevated the film for me somewhat.

- No depth or substance. While HOUSE OF 9 does focus on the characters' actions and how they interact with each other towards their goal, I still felt as if I knew nothing about these characters other than their obvious stereotypes. This is fine when it's a slasher film and you know most of these archetypes won't last too long due to the film's villain. But HOUSE OF 9 really spends a decent chunk of time on these people and their situation. So in that sense, I feel there should be more than just names and occupations when it comes to characters. Jay is a cop, yet I barely knew nothing about him other than that he was a good guy. Lea is the "girl next door" type, but as a dancer, she doesn't do much of it. She seems sweet and smart though. Father Duffy is an Irish priest with a troubled accent. We also get rappers, athletes, and a wealthy socialite couple. And while it's nice to throw in distrust towards Al B [probably due to his brash behavior and color of his skin] and portray Francis as the pompous asshole who pushes everyone's buttons while scheming behind their backs, not knowing more about these characters takes something away from the narrative. The fact that most of these characters don't really have a substantial connection to each other personally is also a bit of a misfire.

I think my biggest issue had to do with the villain. Honestly, I have no idea why this person is doing this to these people. Supposedly he gets off watching others kill each other like some sort of Reality TV competition. So he's either a sick freak, Mark Burnett, or both. What's this guy's purpose? Is he so rich and having problems spending his money that he needs to do this to less fortunate people? If that was the case, I would have liked to learn more about that.

The fact that he has people helping him do this must say a lot about his influence and power. But he's really a non-factor here since he never appears in person. He's just a voice controlling everything. I love mysterious characters, but at least throw me some kind of bone. I just didn't get what this guy's deal was. I'm not looking for a backstory. I just wanted a hint. Things like that bug me. I know why Jigsaw and his twenty apprentices do what they do. I had no clue with this bad guy.

- The uneven pacing. HOUSE OF 9 suffers from some pacing issues. It's a pretty slow film, especially during the first half. After an intro where each character is kidnapped, the pace comes to a halt as the characters wake up, figure out what's going on, and try to escape in vain. Then we get scenes of the characters chatting, eating, chatting, drinking, chatting, dancing, chatting, fighting, chatting, and then accidentally murdering a character. This is pretty much all within 45 minutes. So after the first victim, I figure the film will finally pick up. Nope, it's a slow burn until the last 20 minutes when the character's animal instincts begin to take over. I don't mind slow films, especially if there's going to be some decent character development that will enhance the final act. But we don't get much of that in HOUSE OF 9, so instead of being interested in what's going on, you're sitting there waiting for something exciting to happen. That does occur, but it just takes a while after Monroe teases you with some action and conflict. I will say I wasn't bored, but a quicker pace would have helped build more tension than the film actually managed to have.


While films like CUBE and SAW II worked the premise better, HOUSE OF 9 is still a decent watch if you ever come across it. The acting is decent, the premise [while tired] still works, the direction is mostly solid, and it has a nice twist ending. Could have used more gore to compensate for lack of character development and pacing issues, but overall it's not the worst film out there. Worth a watch or rental, but not worth getting killing your eight other mates over.

2.5 Howls Outta 4


  1. Fred - I loved your line about the premise being tired but awesome - because that's exactly what it is - it has been done so many times - but it's still almost irresistible! I may have to check this one out! Solid review!

  2. Thanks, Craig! Yeah, the premise has been done so many times. But it's one of those ideas that always seems to work, no matter how many times you see it. As for the film itself, I had watched this back in February on Netflix - it was one of those Starz films that got taken away. But it is on YouTube in different parts. So if you want to check it out, it's right there for free. Enjoy!

  3. good movie go and watch it



Related Posts with Thumbnails