Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Nine Lives | Infested

By Steve Anderson
May 1st, 2004

Nine Lives
DVD
R
2002
**1/2

Well, that's it, folks. I hope you all enjoyed civilization, because life as we know it has ended.

They put Paris Hilton in a movie.

And it's NOT PORN.

Yes, yes, I know...Paris is only actually IN this for ten or fifteen minutes but it's ten or fifteen minutes too many for this sad, debauched wreckage of humanity.

The storyline, however, is fairly simple. I guess that was so Miss Hilton could actually FOLLOW THE SCRIPT. Sad that it didn't come in pop-up book format.... Someone apparently inherited an old Scottish manor, belonging to a Scottish patriot who died under very nasty circumstances, including having his eyes gouged out.

The movie gets off to a thrilling start, a girl running through a darkened house carrying a large knife screams that she "can't find him."

But for some reason, the movie then jumps to a convoy of black cars driving down the road.

What, did Paris do the cinematography, too?

For those of you who may be getting upset by seeming logic holes, the movie, almost begrudgingly in small white type, prints "earlier that day" on the screen.

Paris, meanwhile, gets off to a booming start, mocking the Swiss and chattering inanely about fashion and "fabulous"ness with a nearby girl, ostensibly her friend.

The next ten minutes or so are spent sitting around a table empty except for clean plates and enough wine to float the Bolivian Navy home. And the conversation is as empty as the table. The after-dinner conversation is emptier still, and laced with even MORE alcohol. If there were a serial killer in this movie he would have SUCH an easy time of it because all these kids would be:

a. blind drunk
or
b. hung over

when he came to do the killing! Meanwhile, Paris has vanished. I don't know what happened, and I find I really don't CARE what happened. My guess is they could no longer afford her.

Ah, here we go. It only took them twenty minutes to stop drinking and introduce the main evil of the movie, the "ghost" haunting the manor. Ostensibly, that murdered patriot we just heard about.

There was, I believe, less liquor in "Animal House" than there is in "Nine Lives." My liver hurts just WATCHING these boozebags sop it up.

But then, the movie takes an interesting turn. Instead of the ghost manipulating objects around him in a poltergeisty manner, throwing them at our unsuspecting socialites, the ghost uses a rare means of attack.

Possession.

That's right, the ghost takes over the bodies of the people in the house and immediately uses these bodies to kill the rest off. With each kill, a new host is taken, giving us a measure of surprise in each new killer. Who's next? Who knows!

The only way to tell is in the eyes. Whenever one of our booze-soaked socialites is possessed, his or her eyes go completely black.

These kids are not the best equipped, physically or mentally, to deal with a survival horror situation as this one is. Yes, it's really only a microcosmic version, but still. Worse yet, it's snowing outside. The blinding snow, howling winds, and sub-zero temperatures mean they're pretty effectively trapped in the house.

And they aren't making things any better by their own actions. No one trusts anyone, and they're not bothering to notice patterns.

However, they do start noticing the patterns eventually, and this is a point in their favor.

The rest of the movie is a surprisingly harrowing buildup to an ending that doesn't disappoint, for once. No cheese, no twists, just a solid ending with our last survivor. A little sad, but still.

There's almost nothing in terms of extra features here...just some interviews with the cast, no doubt cashing in on the Paris Hilton angle, and trailers for "Godsend," "Girl With A Pearl Earring," and "Shattered Glass."

So all in all, "Nine Lives" overcomes a slow start to be an innovative horror film.

 

Infested: Invasion of the Killer Bugs
DVD
R
1/2

Most video fans are aware that the stuff released straight to video is usually sub-par. Production budgets are low, scripts are second-rate, acting is more wooden than a lumberyard...you know the story.

Infested raises the bar for sheer awful by being a straight to video release from a MAJOR STUDIO. That's right, this particular piece of awful is brought to you by the, and I hesitate to say good, people at Columbia Tristar.

We start this cinematic train wreck with a funeral. Great place to start, that. We also get a little high school reunion in the making, as the deceased's, a fellow named Steven, friends have some conversations amongst themselves. And these people are really deep, too. There's an actor, and several businessmen, and assorted wives, all talking about themselves. If these people were any more shallow they'd be grasslands.

Next, we get graveside services delivered by a priest so new-age he makes Shirley MacClain look like Cotton Mather.

Then the shallow ones begin questioning themselves, wondering if they've sold out their youthful ideals for the sake of profit. But this doesn't last any too long before they engage in discussion that brings things right back up to the level of shallowness that we've come to expect from this group of truly pointless yuppies for lack of a better word. Yoga, feng shui, and the CIA dealing crack. This is the body of their discussion. And then someone fires up the music of their youth on the ORIGINAL VINYL no less and that takes care of the next five, ten minutes.

Am I alone in thinking most people will be glad to see the bugs come and eat these people just so we can get some debris out of the gene pool?

And then, finally, the bugs make their first appearance, biting one character's neck. I know, innocent enough, and the bug is smashed on contact, but then the bite victim throws the bug's corpse on the ground.

And it bursts into flame.

How many bugs you ever see burst into flame when smashed? You can tell, these particular little pests are of a different breed.

Not only do these pests leave behind incendiary corpses, they also have--get this--MIND CONTROL POWERS.

The joke is, I'm not kidding. These bugs actually get into live human beings, usually via the mouth, and take over their minds. They don't seem to care when their host bodies' necks are broken, either.

In a surprise move, the script switches gears rapidly and delightfully CLEANLY from shallow yuppie party to harrowing survival horror. I have a soft spot for survival horror, and Infested sets it up well. The mind-controlled corpses disable the cars outside, leaving our remaining shallow yuppies with a serious problem--how to survive without being killed and / or taken over by swarms of bugs?

A critical advantage appears mere moments later as a swarm of bugs attacks one of the last living houseguests. As they fly headlong into a shaft of sunlight, they all burst into tiny fireballs.

Seems our bugs have a serious light allergy, meaning when nightfall hits, there's going to be a serious problem. Which means our surviving yuppies have to move, and quick. A party of yuppie survivors, armed with homemade torches, goes forth to do battle and recover the cell phone from one of the disabled cars.

The action continues until just two of our yuppie survivors are left alive and untouched by the bugs. And, much to everyone's surprise, the bugs are vulnerable to Raid.

And eighties music. Apparently, those strange, soulful beats confuse the bugs like no tomorrow and render them inoperative.

Everybody with me so far? To recap, our devilbugs can be killed by the following:

1. Light
2. Raid
3. Smashing Them
4. Eighties Music

What's next? Pine needles? Pina colada mix? Certain kinds of yeast? How many weaknesses can these bugs HAVE?

For a movie that showed such promise as a survival horror movie not a half hour ago, it's definitely fallen apart.

And then, in the last great reason why this movie is truly, truly awful, Steven comes back from the dead, looking good as new. He's complaining about his friends and their shallowness, which is what most of US have been complaining about since the start of the movie. He also doesn't trust the government with these superbugs, and thus, he let them loose on the world.

The ending will be roughly what you expect.

There isn't much in the way of special features on the DVD--only a trailer gallery for "Infested", "Anaconda," which was actually released back in the depths of 1997, and the Columbia "Creature Features" line of horror titles. Look for also a dearth of subtitles. They actually included subtitles for seven languages, including Chinese and Thai.

Now here's where things get weird. Two characters might be recognizable to horror / sci-fi buffs out there. Zach Galligan, whom you will remember as Billy Peltzer from Gremlins, plays Warren. Better still, quasi-legendary sellout Amy Jo Johnson from the ORIGINAL Power Rangers cast (Kimberly the Pink Ranger) plays Steven's recently-bereaved girlfriend Jessie.

All in all, this will sum up exactly what I thought of Infested:

Billy Peltzer did not deserve this indignity. He does not deserve to be part of a movie that can't make up its mind about what moral it wants to project. He does not deserve to be part of a movie that starts slow, suddenly picks up speed, then decides it's actually getting GOOD so it had better introduce some hackneyed plot devices to tone things down a bit. He does not deserve to be part of a movie with a script that can't quite tell if it's a horror movie or Return to the Breakfast Club.

Kimmy the Pink Ranger, however, DOES.

 

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line. 

Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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