There are some movies that you watch where you can instantly sense that something is off – the story, as presented, makes no sense. At that point, there are two basic ways to understand what is taking place – either the movie is poorly written and that’s why it doesn’t make sense or the movie is tipping its hand, letting the audience know that things are not as they appear. If the latter is the case, that doesn’t necessarily exclude poor writing, it just opens up the possibility that some other things could be going on as well.
This tipping of the hand is the situation in which we finds ourselves with the Justin P. Lange written and directed, “The Seventh Day.” A tale of exorcism, it is perhaps best described as a dark buddy cop movie, but one where the cops are less cops and more priests who perform exorcisms. There is the veteran priest, Father Peter (Guy Pearce), and the rookie priest, Father Daniel (Vadhir Derbez). Although Daniel has taken a class on exorcisms, we catch up with him on his first day in the field as the roving exorcist, Peter, arrives to show him the ropes (or the crosses, maybe).
From there, little makes sense. Rather than following that great medical TV show (and perhaps real life) aphorism, “see one, do one, teach one,” Peter chooses to stand back and kind of throw Daniel at the demons, letting the young man dip his feet in the (holy) water, that kind of thing. One would surmise that in the ultimate battle of good versus evil, those with the skills would teach them to the next generation rather than offering the young up as cannon fodder, but that is not Peter’s M.O. and he’s the expert, performing exorcisms and creating his own army since 1995.
The main exorcism case for Peter and Daniel is that of the young Charlie (Brady Jenness), a boy who just taken in for killing his family with an axe. And so, Daniel is brought into the lions’ den as Peter watches from a safe distance.
The basic problem as this is all taking place, as noted, is that the specifics of how it plays out makes little to no sense. Even if one believes in demons, it feels improbable that the case would be approached in such a fashion. Over and over again, we are given moments that make us scratch our heads and wonder.
This doesn’t feel like the fault of either Derbez or Pearce, both are engrossing and fit well into the rookie-veteran mold. Pearce is particularly fun as this grizzled, gruff, Priest looking to scare the life out of the newbie.
So, the question asked up top reframed: why does Lange, with two capable actors and a great buddy cop dynamic, present us a story with so much amiss. Certainly he offers appropriately creepy and terribly bloody moments along the way, but why give us a story that doesn’t work if we’re meant to understand it in a straightforward fashion?
The only answer I have is that it is indeed tipping its hand. No movie like this one is allowed to exist in this day and age with out some sort of a twist occurring at some point, and there’s one possible twist that not only will spring to mind for many, but explains a great number of the inconsistencies as well. It is too good a fit to not be the right answer and once it pops into your head, it’s impossible to not root for the movie to just get there faster so that it can move on and do something more interesting with the rest of its time (this does not occur). There are some truly enjoyable (if demonic possession is your thing) moments, but on the whole “The Seventh Day” is not a good enough film to make holding back the reveal enjoyable, but that is what it does.
“The Seventh Day” is dark and atmospheric and has a great feel to it. Quick appearances by Keith David and Stephen Lang round out the cast. It doesn’t drag things out and while it offers up a couple of jump scares, it also has some well-depicted horror bits. All that said, because the twist is so easy to spot and the movie doesn’t work at all without it, it is unsatisfying. By virtue of it’s being so close to being something good and falling short, it is that much more disappointing.
photo credit: Vertical Entertainment