Seeking an escape from the sexual abuse of her sleazy foster father, Danielle takes to the highway. Heading for California, she hitches a ride with an eccentric but seemingly harmless young man called Virgil. He manages to talk her into spending the night at his place. This ends up extending into a nine-day ordeal where she is chained up in Virgil’s basement and forced to undergo a series of physically and psychologically demanding tests. As she begins to grow with her experience and learns to accept her fate, she surpasses her captor’s expectations, and on the ninth and final day the situation reaches an ugly end.
The first of two title screens identifies this film as 9 Days: Whipped, Chained, and Tortured by a Psychopath – so everyone will immediately know whether the subject matter conforms to their cinematic diet or not. The second title screen reduces the lengthy moniker to 9 Days, with the added claim that the film is inspired by Dante’s Inferno. The film fails to live up to expectations in either case, yet retains some appeal among the denizens of horror’s much-maligned subgenre of torture p*rn.
Writer/director Samuel M. Johnson’s feature debut was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, with a budget well under five figures. So the film is cheaply shot, the sound quality is poor, and there is very little by way of splatter effects. Viewers with a low tolerance for this kind of thing should steer clear, or at least stay off the internet; both cast and crew are working against severe limitations, so the barrage of unforgiving opinions that always seems to accompany films like this is somewhat redundant.
The more relevant disappointment with the film is the fact that it doesn’t seem to follow through on any of its tantalizing promises. Dante’s Inferno, the first part of his hugely influential epic poem, provides the theme and a loose framework for 9 Days. Each day of Danielle’s imprisonment supposedly represents one of Dante’s nine circles of suffering; in sum, the circles constitute a journey that brings the soul towards God. “If you don’t know sin, intimately, how can you possibly know redemption?” her captor asks. Luckily for her, Virgil (Chris Schleicher) is there to help her in her transformation from victim to aggressor.
This intriguing concept is not explored to its full potential, however, and we are left with a bunch of scenes where our teenaged heroine (played by an attractive but obviously much older actress, Maura Murphy) is forced to undergo some kind of endurance test, with the idea that she will only prolong her suffering unless she chooses to submit to it. Virgil holds her head underwater, induces her to flagellate herself, chains her up in a bathtub full of ice and, in a ludicrous sequence, surgically implants some kind of remote-controlled shock device in her spine.
None of this is particularly graphic; torture P*rn aficionados will be frustrated at nearly every turn. At no point does Virgil try to bang his prisoner, either – he repeatedly states that his intentions are not sexual, despite Danielle’s continued disbelief. In fact, he remains a charming, well-spoken, clean-cut model of Christian psychopathy throughout. There is next to no nudity, either, placing 9 Days further outside the bounds of typical torture p*rn.
As in the controversial British film Boy Meets Girl (1994), the torturer here attempts to systematically break his captive down according to some obscure plan. But as dialogue-heavy as 9 Days is, Virgil remains a frustratingly cryptic character, although the cumulative effect of his torture leads to a nonetheless satisfying denouement. The cookie cutter irony of an innocent young woman becoming empowered through a demeaning, dehumanizing experience is a staple of the rape/revenge genre; it’s strangely refreshing that on this particular occasion, the element of sexual abuse was omitted. It certainly is comforting to know that Christian torturers draw the line somewhere.