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Written By:

Andrew Marshall

Taking inspiration from Agatha Christie’s mystery masterpiece And Then There Were None, Ten sees a disparate group of women stranded in a creepy old house on a remote island, stuck in each other’s company as they wait out a storm. As a killer stalks the shadows of the old building and one by one they are picked off, it soon becomes apparent that none of them are who they first appeared to be.

On the surface, Ten appears to be merely another example of the kind of single-concept slasher flick that should have died out in the ‘90s, notable only for its entirely female cast. However, its premise is deviously subversive and the film ultimately reveals itself to be a great deal more than the sum of its parts.

The characters and their appearances are all deliberate female archetypes; none of them are ever referred to by name, and each is credited by her defined role, such as the Actress, the Doctor, the Folk Singer or the Historian. The film uses the stereotypical characteristics and appearances to make a statement about the perception of women in film: female characters are often granted only a single defining attribute, as if this one aspect of their personality can completely define them as a person, and is usually one that indicates how they are perceived by men.

The Renegade is a butch, spike-haired, tattooed nonconformist; the Real Estate Investor is a bitchy, ambitious, money-obsessed narcissist; the Medium is a stoner-voiced spiritualist hippie; and the Religious Fanatic is a sanctimonious, judgemental prude. In their individual way, each offers up an observation on the labels that women are forced to assign themselves in order to be accepted as rounded human beings, while their purposefully generic interpretations ultimately becomes significant to the plot.

As well as an incisive piece of social commentary, Ten is also a highly entertaining horror film with a distinct aesthetic. The story is set in the ‘70s, and with the saturated colour and high contrast of a giallo it even looks like it was actually filmed then; the confines of a creepy old house is a perfect (and cheap!) setting for the pig-masked butcher killer to appear and disappear at will; and some trippy sound editing and visual effects add to unreality of the scenario, as do a few touches of black humour such as one character dying while quoting Mercutio’s death soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet.

Instead of appearing cluttered, the large ensemble cast works in the film’s favour. In early scenes the crowd of them is large enough that you can miss one of them inexplicably vanishing from one shot to the next, only realising your oversight when she suddenly appears elsewhere, while the early disorientation from attempting to assimilate so many characters means we are never ahead of them in knowing what’s going on.

The advantage of the film being from a female perspective means that some otherwise exploitative aspects, such as the Model stripping naked before deriding everyone else for the facades they hide behind or the Coed nosebleeding into her immense cleavage, appear more matter of fact than cheaply gratuitous, thus avoiding distracting from the film’s themes. The ultimate revelation behind the events is as incredibly simple as it is joyfully ridiculous, and perfectly fits both the slasher plot and the observations on women’s defined societal roles. Ten might be fun and gory, but it also manages to think a little along the way.


Andrew Marshall

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