9 – The Complete Original Short Subject

The original short subject 9, on which the new feature film is based, is a cryptic little gem. Without the time to develop its premise fully into a dramatic story, writer-director Shane Acker instead presents an eerie vignette that throws us into a seemingly post-apocalyptic world. Without dialogue or exposition, Acker’s film leaves us to draw our own conclusions based on what we see: gloomy vistas of empty buildings separated by dusty streets littered with refuse and rubble, inhabited by tiny humanoid figures, artificial life forms that seem stitched together from burlap. They search through the detritus for useful bits and pieces, their quest interrupted by some robotic-looking predator that literally sucks the life force from its victims.
What it all means is up to the viewer to determine, but the film succeeds because its novel visuals somehow manage to convey an impression of familiarity – as if we were reliving some ancient nightmare long forgotten. In a feature-length movie, the unresolved nature of the narrative might be a hindrance; audiences would have a right to expect some more solid explanation in exchange for sitting an hour-and-a-half. Shane Acker, however, cleverly uses the short form to his advantage, turning its limitation into a strength, offering enough memorable imagery to intrigue us while leaving the implications open to interpretation.
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