9 Days Review

by Sean McLaughlin


by: Sean McLaughlin 

While being held hostage, chained to a basement pillar by a sadistic religious zealot, the best course of action is almost always reverse psychology, right? That theory is put to the test by the horror thriller 9 Days, written and directed by Samuel M. Johnson (making his debut in both arenas). It’s also very loosely based on Dante’s Inferno, much in the same way that the Coen Brothers’ Oh Brother Where Art Thou uses Homer’s Odyssey as its muse. Although I’m sure Dante would take a literary point of contention with this notion, this movie is still a disturbingly interesting ride that will leave you with a sense of unease and uncertainty. Who do I side with? Does that make me a bad person?

Released by prolific production company Chemical Burn Entertainment, 9 Days begins with a young woman named Danielle, looking to flee an awful, and incestuous, situation at home, hitching a ride with wholesome-looking everyman Virgil (Chris Schleicher). Played by independent horror film veteran Maura Murphy (Numb), Danielle quickly learns that people aren’t always what they seem. In Virgil’s case, appearances are certainly deceiving as she soon becomes an unwilling pawn in his grand scheme to force all “innocent” girls to sin and be more presentable to God. While chained up in his basement, Danielle becomes subjected to cruel mind games and forced to inflict harm upon herself in the name of “purity.” But as the torture grinds away at her mental state, 9 Days begins to turn into a true study in what creates the infamous Stockholm syndrome. The punishment Danielle endures actually starts bringing her closer to her captor, doing his bidding even without asking. But is this truly the result of Virgil’s master plan, or is Danielle masking her feelings in a last-ditch effort to escape? I’m pretty sure the folks at Chemical Burn wouldn’t be too psyched if I gave any of the details away, but they should be commended for a solid effort.

While the blood and gore are minimal for this type of film, fans of psychological thrillers and horror alike should find something to like here. The acting is commendable, as both lead characters are pretty believable in their respective roles. A cross between Robert Carradine and Gary Busey (gotta love the teeth), Schleicher is outstanding as the level-headed madman Virgil. The devious games he devises, both with and without his participation, are designed to break down a woman’s spirit and pull her closer to his lunacy. Schleicher brings just the right amount of creepiness to the character. And of course Murphy is great, retaining a certain level of sexiness to a very unsexy situation. You will find yourself rooting for and against her, in equal amounts. And for a rookie director/writer/producer, Johnson hits a home run with this film. The moods that he sets with each scene is certainly appropriate for the content, whether in an isolated makeshift-dungeon or in a wide-open field just begging for an escape attempt. Hopefully, he can continue this commendable level of effort into his next project.

If the storyline seems a bit derivative, it is. Silence of the Lambs has to be considered the masterpiece when talking about the topic of sick lunatics chaining up unsuspecting victims (there is even a reference to it in 9 Days). But this film is a worthy compliment, not nearly at that level but still a respectable homage. Think of it almost like a Westboro Baptist Church member gone rogue(er), and taking matters into his or her own hands. The flow of this movie is up and down, and there may be times when you could think about giving up on it. But I implore you stick with it, and the end result may just surprise you. 9 Days is certainly worth a look.

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