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Film / Nine Dead

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"Why are you here?"
The captor

Nine Dead is a 2009 Ontological Mystery thriller, directed by Chris Shadley and starring Melissa Joan Hart and William Lee Scott, in which nine people with apparently no connection to each other are kidnapped, and told that one of them will die every 10 minutes unless they can tell their captor the reason why he kidnapped them.

As an Ontological Mystery, much of this page is spoiler-tagged. Highlight at your own risk.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ambition Is Evil: Kelley planted evidence and convicted an innocent man to advance her career; and then murders the other survivors to protect it.
  • Amoral Attorney: Kelley, who not only deliberately framed an innocent man, but murders Eddie and Jackson to protect her reputation.
  • Asshole Victim: Three of the captives who die are all vile criminals.
    • Sully is a racist, sexist, mob-connected loan shark from Vegas who firebombs the homes of those who don't pay back their debts on time.
    • Leon is a home invading thief and occasional street gun runner who would shoot his own brother for holding out on him.
    • Coogan is a child molester and serial killer who knowingly infected his victims with AIDs.
  • Ass Pull: Eddie realizing Coogan had AIDs, based on a comment made right before he got shot, at the critical point where everyone but Coogan and Eddie's involvement was accounted for.
  • Berserk Button: The captor nearly loses it when Kelley pleads for her life in respect to her son. Understandable, as it is because of Kelley that the captor's son is dead.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Several of the characters get this, but most frequently Eddie does despite his genuine attempts to help the group with solving the mystery.
    "Eddie, shut up!"
  • Bound and Gagged: All of the captives at the start of their imprisonment. Their captor then removes their gags.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: The entire mystery hinges on Sully, a mob-connected Loan Shark, having once loaned five grand to a rookie criminal, who then robbed a convenience store to pay him back and let an innocent man take the blame. When he finally learns this, he's astounded that out of all the bad things he's done in his life (and he's done far worse), some small deal that he never paid any mind to again is the thing that comes back to haunt him.
  • Closed Circle: Nine people kidnapped and tied up in a small room, told by their captor to figure out why they're all there.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Leon tries to escape but the captor wounds him fatally, then locks him back up in the room and says that he's moved him to the front of the list. Knowing that he's dead anyway, he tries to redeem himself by helping the others in his last few minutes.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Coogan is a more disgusting example than usual, since he is a pedophilic rapist who smugly notes that he didn't discriminate based on gender.
  • Dwindling Party: Such is the case every ten minutes, in which one person will be killed.
  • Dying Smirk: Sully dies with a big smile on his face after refusing any offer of redemption from the captor for the crimes that brought him there.
    I'd rather go out in style.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Several not-so-nice characters invoke this throughout the film.
    • Leon wishes for his mother to forgive him for killing his brother.
    • Sully states that he would never betray his father, and at one point taunts the kidnapper to have him reunite with his dead brother.
    • And most prominently, the kidnapper and his dead son.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Sully and Leon aren't particularly nice guys, but even they are disgusted at the pedophile Coogan.
    • Even Sully is disgusted when Kelley reveals that she intentionally planted evidence to frame an innocent man just to get a successful conviction.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Father Francis is the first person to figure out the key to the mystery, but his oath to God restricts him from sharing that knowledge. However, he is so disgusted with Kelly's self-serving lies about the robbery that he starts dropping hints anyway.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Aside from a few short scenes at the beginning about how the nine captives were abducted, the entire film takes place over the course of about 80 minutes.
  • Face Death with Despair:
    • Christian starts begging and pleading when he is told that he will die first.
    • Eddie breaks down into tears when the captor tells him he is going to die next. Father Francis sacrifices his life to save Eddie.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Coogan. While he's not the only criminal in the room, he goes out of his way to be a passive aggressive jerkass to the other captives, mocking pleasantries, blowing Kelly kisses, and in the same cheery tone of voice bragging about being a child molester.
  • Final Girl: Turned on its head as the only reason Kelley is the Final Girl is because she kills the other two survivors.
  • The Heart: Jackson and Eddie, as they spend most of the movie trying to get the group to work together and solve the mystery.
  • Hope Spot: The final three, Kelley, Jackson, and Eddie, unravel the mystery and the captor says they can go... but then Kelley pulls a gun...
  • Hypocrite:
    • Leon becomes sullen and angry when he's called a racial's hard to feel sorry for him considering the racial slurs he himself was hurling at Chan only a second before. His appeal also rings hollow considering Leon himself literally is a murderous career criminal that any law-abiding black person would be appalled by.
    • Kelly frequently belittles others for their actions or accuses them for doing horrible things, but she herself is one of the most immoral ones within the group. She's even guilty of the same accusations she makes!
  • I Have a Family: Subverted. Kelly pleads with the captor to let her go because she has a young son. The captor angrily retorts that he knows quite well that she's a pretty neglectful parent because he had been spying on all of them, so he finds it insulting that she would try to use this as an excuse. This is another clue that his grievance for capturing the nine people is a family matter.
  • Irrational Hatred: The captor has this towards most of the captives, as he simply seems to be looking for someone, anyone to blame for the death of his son, no matter how responsible they really were. Kelly (for framing Wade to advance herself), Coogan (for raping Wade and giving him AIDs), Christian (for letting an innocent go to prison so he can remain free), and Father Francis (for not turning in Christian, who confessed, so Wade could be released) are the only ones directly responsible for the death of his son. From his point of view, any intervention would've saved Wade.
    • Sully and Leon are remorseless criminals, but only tangentially related to his son's death.
    • Chan made a genuine mistake and didn't intend any harm (if you know Chinese, she even says in her death scene that Kelly manipulated her into selecting Wade from the line-up).
    • Eddie had no choice but to follow his company's rules or be fired.
    • Jackson was being manipulated by Kelly and didn't even know the evidence used to convict Wade was false.
  • I Regret Nothing: Sully does express some remorse for what he considers to be his worst crime, but when he finds out that the real reason behind his capture is something he considered completely insignificant, he proudly embraces his criminal lifestyle, telling the captor he isn't sorry for any of it.
  • It's All About Me: Kelly is quite selfish throughout the film, and ultimately murders both Jackson and Eddie to protect her reputation..
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Leon manages to wrestle Shooter's automatic off him: discharging a single shot as he does so. Shooter calmly tells him that he chambers a single round in that gun before he enters the cell to execute one of the captives. He draws a revolver and continues that this gun, however, contains six bullets. Leon pulls the trigger and discovers that Shooter was telling the truth.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Coogan is easily the most disgusting person in the room, what with being a self-admitted child molester and a sneering Jerkass besides, but he brings up a valid point when he asks the others why they are there. Sure, Coogan's past is probably the reason why the captor considers him worthy of the death penalty, but what have the others done that justifies such a punishment?
  • Left Hanging: The screen cuts to black before the audience finds out if Kelley gets away with it or not. It was however made clear that "everyone was watching." There was apparently a live broadcast of the events, so even if she does get away, she'll be on the run from the law for the rest of her life, and her main purpose for killing Jackson and Eddie was made pointless and condemned herself.
  • Karmic Nod:
    • Coogan admits that he's a child molester, and the others say that he deserves to die for his crimes. He's self aware enough to admit that's probably true, but asks the others what they did to deserve a death sentence, leaving them wondering about their captivity.
    • When the captor kills one of the prisoners, the prisoner taunts him with a See You in Hell boast. The captor simply replies "I know".
    • Although Sully firebombed an elderly man's apartment, he thoroughly regrets that his act unwittingly killed the man's grandchildren, with Sully stating that he deserves to die because of this.
  • Language Barrier: Mrs. Chan only speaks Chinese; the rest of the captives only know English. The captor still demands that they figure out her place in the plot why they're all there, or they will all die anyway.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Kelly's son Billy is actually Jackson's as well, resulting from their affair. Before that Jackson had been trying to conceive a child with his wife, with no success.
  • Loan Shark: Sully is a Las Vegas loan shark who has connections with the mob. He firebombed the homes of the people who refused to or couldn't pay him, which he regrets because he didn't know there were people inside at the time. This later turns out to be the key plot point in the mystery, as it was his loan that Christian had to pay back by any means that set the entire story in motion.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Ironically, The Kidnapper's murder spree ends up revealing to the public that the biggest monster in the room is Kelly, having betrayed and/or murdered everyone in contact.
  • Misplaced Retribution: The Kidnapper wants revenge against his nine captives for the role they played in the death of his son. These include the man who raped him thus giving him AIDs and the lawyer who framed him for a liquor store robbery. Also includes the guy who was owed money by the REAL robber, and a priest who heard the confession of the robber.
  • No Ending: The film ends with Kelley overpowering and killing the Captor, then turning and murdering the last two of her fellow captives to keep her own secret. Then against all logic (she's supposed to be a lawyer) she wanders through the building and out the back door as the cops burst in the front door and find the bodies in the room. Then, cut to black.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Father Francis states that he is through his practice of faith.
  • Obviously Evil: Everything about Coogan's appearance (Porn Stache, middle-aged, chubby, polo shirt, etc.) and Sissy Villain mannerisms just screams "child molester".
  • Ontological Mystery: The protagonists all wake up in a cell chained to a wall. Their captor tells them that one of them will die every ten minutes unless they can tell him why they are there.
  • Papa Wolf: It turns out that the abductor's motivation is to get revenge on the ones he views as responsible for his son's death.
  • Pedophile Priest: Father Francis is accused of being this while trying to find his connection to the others. He isn't. His actual "crime" is hearing the confession of a criminal and not telling the authorities about it.
  • Pistol-Whipping: The flashback where Leon describes his occupation has him beating a the householder he is robbing with the man's own gun.
  • Plothole: The captor's plan largely depends on him knowing information that he simply did not possess or had access to. Having presumably witnessed his son's trial for armed robbery and the insurance company's investigation when his son was dying of AIDs after serving out his term, he should at least know the identities of Kelly (the public prosecutor), Chan (the chief witness in the trial), Eddie (the insurance investigator), and maybe Jackson (assuming that he was the investigating officer). He could have found out the identity and whereabouts of Coogan (who raped the captor's son during his stint in prison) based on information his son would have provided him and some additional research. However, he never knew anything about Christian and Sully's money deal, Leon selling the gun to Christian, Christian confessing to Father Francis that he was the real robber, or Kelley tricking Jackson into helping her commit legal fraud, nor could he have known without being omniscient. This is poorly handwaved by the captor explaining his scheme took two years of planning.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Sully is quite racist towards Leon, a black guy.
    • Leon isn't much better, considering his treatment of Chan (he even calls her a… anti-Asian slur… at one point), and ASSUMING every white person in the room is racist toward him, despite Sully being the only one to display the attitude.
  • Prison Rape: Coogan raped the captor's son while they were both incarcerated in San Quentin.
  • Rape as Backstory: Kelley (though that has little bearing on the plot) and the captors son, which definitely does.
  • Rape and Revenge:
    • Kelley reveals that she was once raped and then promptly beat the rapist to death with a bat immediately after the rape.
    • The kidnapper's plot is considered this toward Coogan, who raped the kidnapper's son in prison, transmitted AIDs to him, which would cause his death two years later after his release.
  • Red Herring: Though it does show the kind of people the characters are, the reveals that Leon killed his brother, Jackson helped beat a teenager to blindness, Kelly murdered her own rapist with a baseball bat, Eddie falsified papers to get his brother-in-law into an experimental treatment, and Sully torched a store with the owner and his grandchildren inside have little else in bearing to why the characters are in the room.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Before killing a person, the captor will usually whisper the reason why (one of them figures it out before his death, and another isn't able to hear it because he jumps ahead of the line in a Heroic Sacrifice). We don't get to hear what he says, but after the mystery is revealed, it's easy to decipher from the context.
    • Christian: My son went to prison for a crime you committed.
    • Coogan: You raped my son and gave him AIDS.
    • Leon: You profited off the crime my son was blamed for.
    • Chan: You gave a false statement and condemned my son to prison.
  • See You in Hell: As the captor prepares to kill one of the prisoners, the prisoner throws out a final taunt by saying that he'll be seeing the guy in Hell. The captor calmly replies "I know" as he shoots him.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Father Francis' Taking the Bullet for Eddie. He dies anyway. Doubly subverted: Eddie was spared by their captor and it looks like he gets to live, but then he's shot by Kelley.
  • Sibling Murder: One of Leon's past sins is the murder of his own brother. They were both criminals, one was just trying to backstab the other.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Sully gets an incredible speech, before he dies, telling his captor that he doesn't care about his vengeance and dies a happy man.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Christian, who dies first but plays a vital role in the mystery.
  • Stupid Evil: Near the end, the captives figure out enough of the answer that the captor is clearly considering letting them go for a moment, until Sully ruins it by telling him he's not apologizing for anything. If he had expressed some genuine remorse, he might have lived.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Not at first, but his actions are entirely motivated by the death of his son.
  • Taking the Bullet: Father Francis for Eddie.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: While the film does use occasional flashbacks to earlier lines of dialogue when the characters figure something out, two flashbacks to dialogue from the captor appear no less than five minutes after he actually says them.
  • Villain-by-Proxy Fallacy: The captor targets nine people who are in some way responsible for the death of his beloved son, locking them all in a room and asking them why they are there. He will kill a random person every ten minutes until they either figure it out or every single one of them is dead. While you can sympathize with him for wanting to punish the pedophile that infected his son with aids, the robber who used him as a Fall Guy, or the prosecutor who forged evidence to get a conviction and boost her own career, he equally blames the eyeball witness and the cop who were manipulated by said prosecutor, the guy who sold a gun to the robber and the guy who borrowed him money, even an insurance investigator who couldn't break rules without losing his job.
  • You All Share My Story: And the mystery is finding out how.