NINE MILES DOWN
Finally sitting down to watch Nine Miles Down, I expected from the films synopsis something reminiscent of Larry Fessendens The Last Winter (2006), a film similarly set at an Alaskan drilling base where the crew disturbed something buried in the ground with their drilling that then starts killing/affecting the people at the base. Both Nine Miles Down and The Last Winter in turn owe much to The Thing from Another World (1951) and its remake The Thing (1982), which created the quintessential plot of the crew isolated at a remote base being attacked by a creature. These and other imitators of The Thing are essentially stripped-back isolation dramas Nine Miles Down takes this to the extent that the bulk of the film (some 95% of the running time) is occupied by only two characters, Adrian Paul and Kate Naura (with infrequent cuts back to base and appearances of Meredith Ostrom as Adrian Pauls dead wife).
Once events start to kick in, Nine Miles Down reveals a plot that comes with a head-scratchingly left field corniness. When Adrian Paul starts exploring the deserted base and we gets hints in video clips and books left open that he is dealing with something demonic, I had the immediate sinking feeling that we were in for a ground-based version of Event Horizon (1997) a film about a spaceship that returned after having physically passed through Hell. (Perhaps even closer than this was Sometimes They Come Back ... For More (1998), another clearly Thing-influenced film featuring a team investigating satanic forces loose in a polar base). This is confirmed not long after as Adrian Paul starts hearing the voices of damned souls in the sounds coming up from the pit and then thinks that survivor Kate Naura might be in league with or a manifestation of the Devil. These revelations kick in with a clunky laughability the discovery of a physical Hell was an absurdly corny plot device in Event Horizon and is just as much here.
To his credit, you cannot deny that Anthony Waller creates an exceedingly haunted atmosphere throughout noises and bangings, sudden jumps provided by voices on video recordings, Adrian Paul thinking he sees figures in the sandstorm or hands banging at the window of his Jeep as he tries to sleep. There is one clever scene where Adrian Paul faces his demonic self in a mirror, which is reflected into infinity in the mirror behind, and then raises a gun against his forehead and we see tiny flashes off in the far distance, which as they come closer reveal themselves to be gunshots of each of the reflections shooting themselves.
Anthony Waller also creates considerable ambiguity between whether Kate Naura a relative newcomer previously best known as the lingerie-clad girl with guns in Transporter 2 (2005) is someone sinister who may not be the scientist she claims and is quite possibly an envoy from Hell, or a purely mundane interpretation where everything is given a semi-plausible explanation. The script sets up a classic dichotomy between reason and belief in the supernatural something heavily underscored in one dialogue scene between Adrian Paul and Kate Naura at one point. This turns the build-up and expectation of another Event Horizon type film into a Lewtonian film after Val Lewton, a producer during the 1940s who made a classic body of films beginning with Cat People (1942) that constantly vied between whether the menace present was supernatural in nature or purely in the minds of the protagonists.
[PLOT SPOILERS] The latter half of the film emerges as a variant on The Crazies (1973) and a body of films that have copied this such as Impulse (1984), The Signal (2007), Pontypool (2008), Salvage (2009), YellowBrickRoad (2010), the remake of The Crazies (2010), Patient Zero (2012), Urge (2016), Mayhem (2017) and Mom & Dad (2017) about protagonists being infected with a toxin/virus that causes them to go mad. Some of the juggles between reality and hallucination Adrian Paul reconciling with his dead wife, which is abruptly reversed to be seen from Kate Nauras point-of-view as him cuddling a carcass of meat in the kitchen; her taunting him that she is the Devil and demanding that he relinquish his soul; or where he enters the hospital in search of her at the end are conducted with an adept ingenuity, even if it is not quite as clever a one as was present in the original Val Lewton films.
Nine Miles Down was co-written by veteran Australian genre writer Everett De Roche who has written a number of other Australian genre films including the excellent Natures Revenge film Long Weekend (1978), Patrick (1978) about a psychic coma patient, the stalker psycho-thriller Snapshot/The Day After Halloween (1979), Harlequin (1980) about an enigmatic magician, the psycho-thriller Roadgames (1981), the killer boar film Razorback (1984), the killer chimp film Link (1986), the Aboriginal childrens fantasy Frog Dreaming/The Quest (1986), the psycho-thriller Heart of Midnight (1988), the ghost story Visitors (2003), the Backwoods Brutality film Storm Warning (2007) and the remake of Long Weekend (2008).