Had a bad day? Did someone let you down? Did several people let you down? In fact, did you get the feeling that nobody cares? You get the idea that if you took a couple of handfuls of tablets you wouldn’t be missed at all? Then everything seems to have gone to hell.
This is probably not the right time to watch Nine Miles Down (2009).
But as you all know, it’s chemical. The feelings you are having as a result of your disappointment with the world all come down to chemical reactions in the brain.
And this is mentioned in the clever script for this movie.
Here take an anti-depressant and it will all be better… Well, I shouldn’t have but I watched Nine Miles Down instead. Maybe I should have picked a comedy.
Based on the urban legend of a “Well to Hell” which began in a Christian newsletter in Finland of all places. It is based on a story that a drilling team in Russia drilled almost nine miles down through a cavity in the Earth’s crust. It is said that they lowered a heat resistant microphone down and recorded what apparently were the screams of the dead coming from hell itself. The chamber of fire where the screams were emanating was thought to be over 1000 degrees centigrade. So bad luck if your soul ends up down there!
Apparently there really was a Russian drilling crew but they didn’t pick up any supernatural phenomena happening. In fact when the recording which turned up on the internet after American Christian networks and tabloids reported the incident, turned out to be a recording of various special sound effects, some apparently lifted from Mario Bava’s (1914-80 heart attack) Baron Blood (1972). Again this is reported, or is it further urban legend?
The story, which originally only reported the screams, was embellished to say to the Christian television stations that demons came roaring out of the borehole and raced across the sky. People believed it at the time.
Nine Miles Down is one of, or part of, one of the last screenplays by Everett de Roche (1946-2014 cancer), who wrote a number of great Ozploitation screenplays in the 1970s and 80s, including Quentin Tarantino’s favourite Aussie film of all time, Roadgames (1981). The original screenplay was supposed to be set in the Australian outback and seems to have gone through a number of incarnations, including reports that in 1995 the project had John Carpenter slated to direct. Obviously that didn’t happen and Val Kilmer was set to star in 2002 but that didn’t happen either. Then in 2006 it was supposed to star Olivier Martinez. In the end it was Adrian Paul (1959-) from the Highlander series (1992-98) and model and actress Kate Nauta (1982-) who starred in the finished product.
By this stage, director Anthony Waller (1959-) had worked on the script, and the setting was settled to be somewhere in the Middle East. It was actually filmed in Tunisia. Waller is an interesting choice for director and while not prolific he has made a few interesting features including this one. His debut feature is the neglected Mute Witness (1994), a very good low budget horror set in Russia in the era of Glasnost. The new freedom in post-Communist Russia is shown in Mute Witness with half an American film crew filming a horror movie in Moscow. Working on this film is a young mute American woman who is locked in the rundown movie studio cum warehouse where she witnesses a snuff film being made. It all goes from there, with the director and crew of the snuff film out to kill her before word is out. Waller directs with assurance. There is a long scene without dialogue at the beginning of the film, which could be compared to the work of the great silent directors. Then the question is posed whether it was a snuff film at all or did the girl imagine the scene as “real”? There is also an investigation by a policeman who may or may not be involved with the snuff film makers. Waller’s script is very clever and it is his fish totally out of water in a country far from home and thrown into their own personal hell out of their control which he also uses to great effect in Nine Miles Down.
The other film of Waller’s of note is An American Werewolf in Paris (1997) which is a follow-up of course to An American Werewolf in London. Directed and co-written by Waller, it uses early CGI effects rather than the award-winning Rick Baker’s effects for werewolf transformation. The effects suffer in comparison and the original movie may be better also, but… the film is not a failure. In fact, the effects aren’t bad at all, especially for the time, no matter what Siskel and Ebert said (wankers!). It’s another case of ignoring a movie because critics at the time dismissed it!! Here we have the American fish out of water and in his own personal hell again. Waller’s three films are actually a kind of trilogy – the Out of Water Into Hell Trilogy! Nine Miles Down may the best but the other two are just as good. A last word on An American Werewolf in Paris and it has an iconic scene where the hero takes a girl to Pere Lachaise Cemetery at night to have sex atop of Jim Morrison’s grave. Sounds like a good idea! Then there is the bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower. The film is totally underrated even if it is not as classic as the original – it certainly is another take. And it has that netherworld feel as it was filmed in Luxembourg rather than Paris itself much of the time. Nine Miles Down also has a netherworld feel with the dialogue slightly out of sync until the end. But, hell, that might have been my transfer!
But back to the story of Nine Miles Down, which tells of a security officer who checks up on a remote drilling station in the central Sahara Desert. The isolation of the main character is enhanced by this remote and, hellish setting. The station appears totally deserted while there is supposed to be a crew of a dozen or so. When he enters the buildings he finds a jackal has been sacrificed and there are pictures and words drawn in Arabic in blood on the walls. Like Waller’s scene early on in Mute Witness, this opening sequence is quite atmospheric.
The budget of Nine Miles Down was a reported $22 million. When you compare this to budgets of today, this is bordering on elaborate for the material, which is basically a two-hander on not too expensive sets. Look at Halloween (2018) with a budget of $15 million tops and Us (2019), which came in at around $20 million. Nine Miles Down uses its budget well, although there are not figures to see if it made its money back. The stars are most certainly not big names. Adrian Paul as the security officer is effective but this film did no favours for his career or Kate Nauta who was recently in the silly Avalanche Sharks (2014). It is a shame as their performances in Nine Miles Down are good ones.
Anyway Kate turns up alive at the desolate base and there she tries to explain to Adrian that bad stuff has happened, showing him a body in the freezer. Adrian’s character is a bit depressed and affected by a tragedy in his past, while Kate – her character is named Jenny Christiansen, or JC, symbolic of Jesus Christ no doubt – has to prove to him she really does belong to the drill crew as there is no woman listed as working there. Furthermore the name of the security guard is Jack, short for Jackal. The jackal in the Bible is symbolic of loneliness, abandonment and isolation.
JC plays him the recording of sounds from below the crust of the Earth – the Well to Hell. It would seem they are screams of torment – or is it just wind?
But says JC: “Hell is no more than a spiritual creation used to instil fear in others. It’s all in our minds.”
It’s a good line in an equally good script and certainly anyone who has felt disturbed or depressed should ponder it – if you can. If we live in hell, we die in hell and take hell with us. That is both practical and spiritual.
While I watched this movie, I felt like I was in hell, but the horror of the movie gave it a new level and magnified my feelings of horror. Should’ve watched Some Like it Hot instead. Nobody’s Perfect! It’s disturbing viewing.
Further into the film we are tipped off that the Arabic scrawling in blood relate to a devil female – a devil woman – and the words are meant to banish her.
Is JC just a demon set to seduce our hero?
She talks to him in scientific terms, explaining away the universe, while he argues that math takes away the poetry and you can’t deny love. Then she argues that love and feelings are just chemical reactions, and yet just like music, which can be reduced to notes on a page – it/they can move us.
So is she a demon? Our hero seems to be hallucinating that she is his dead wife.
“There’s no point in having thick armour on the outside if your own worst enemy’s within,” says JC, full of good tips, even if she is a demon out to seduce him… and soon she does, well almost… as his wife’s head pops up as JC’s goes down! But there’s no stopping JC and it’s on for young and old.
Meanwhile somewhere along the way, the entire drilling crew turns up in small pieces in a cess pit full of blood and gore and a skeleton reaches out of the darkness grabbing at our disturbed hero’s face. The bodies are definitely no hallucination but he is definitely living in a hell of some sort as he remembers his wife’s suicide as somehow linked to JC. It is then our hero goes totally off the deep end. Or has he? Is she really from hell – a devil – who only wants his soul!
There’s a simple explanation for everything as it turns out it’s a fungus which causes the hallucinations, released from beneath the Earth’s crust!!
The mind that is in hell sweats the small stuff to the point where they do not believe or listen to those around them. Something made worse when under the influence of mind-altering drugs/fungi. Perhaps there are consequences from sleeping in mould-infested rooms! Anyway that’s when there can be a complete break from reality leading to violent consequences for the self or others. And the end of Nine Miles down shows the repercussions of blood that has been spilt.
The end of the movie, and the events that cause our hero to attempt to commit murder and then suicide, are all simply explained and the psychic disturbance of the main character comes full circle. There has been a ripple effect from his wife’s suicide/murder of his children. The ripple in the pond has hit the shore and come back to the centre of the pond. It too was caused by events – in this case an imagined affair – which had a simple explanation. No affair. It was all in the mind.
As one of the signs painted on the walls says somewhere in the film: it’s all about “You” is highlighted as a part of the paranoia, while the rest of the sign in shadow says: “Save …R Selves”. JC may not be Jesus Christ. She may be just a woman or a demon. If you don’t believe in JC saving you… you must “Save yourselves”.
As our hero pulls the trigger with the gun aimed at his head… JC is several possibilities. Just as we see Jack stare into two mirrors facing each other, reflecting eternity, his mind boggles into infinity at the possibilities of the horror, which grows even more horrible the further he thinks of it… In the end he realises it’s all an illusion but even then this is wrong but it is too late, he pulls the trigger and the tunnel opens leading to hell! The end… I laughed… a quick-fire hahaha… in brief relief. It too echoed how I felt when I threw the movie on. Things weren’t really that bad that day upon intelligent reflection on Nine Miles Down. Certainly not compared to our hero in Nine Miles Down… gun to the head and ready to pull the trigger. As the end song proclaims to further defuse the situation for the viewer: “An illusion, save me from the madness of my mind… all inside my head…” Thank you Mr Waller! I’ll sleep tonight… hopefully.
Under Anthony Waller’s direction, this movie, like his previous Mute Witness, is a semi-classic horror, which uses its premise to maximum effect. Check out Waller’s Out of Water Into Hell Trilogy – as loose fitting as this trilogy is. They’re not a bad watch, unjustly forgotten and tucked away in people’s collections and not linked together.
I guess that’s why we watch horror movies sometimes, to short circuit, to defuse and in some cases to shatter the horrors festering in our mind. If you’re lucky you just like seeing people die! It’s all about someone having a worse day than you are having. On other occasions a good revenge horror flick does the trick – aren’t they just the best at times!? How do we save ourselves from ourselves? We may rely on others for relief and love, including Jesus Christ, if you are lonely, and trapped in a personal hell. If you are stuck in a personal hell with no relief, the movies and television can be a healthy diversion. Just be careful what you watch… And don’t kill yourself in a bad mood as you only take it with you!
In this case the illusion was shattered at the end of Nine Miles Down… for a split second…hahaha… just long enough to see through my bad day. As for revenge on those who let me have a bad day, if I don’t forgive them, maybe I’ll throw on an Argento! He knows a thing or two about revenge!! In the meantime try and get some sleep, things will seem better in the morning… hahaha.