The Seventh Day begins on October 8th, 1995, as Pope, and future Saint, John Paul II addresses the crowds in Baltimore. A stone’s throw away Father Louis (Keith David, They Live, You Might Be the Killer) and his protégé Father Peter (Guy Pearce, Memento, Brimstone) prepare to perform an exorcism that will change both of their lives.
In the present day, Father Peter is now a cynical veteran, assigned to train Father Daniel (Vadhir Derbez, How to Be a Latin Lover) in the rites of exorcism. Something doesn’t seem thrilled about. He gives him one day to prove that he’s worth training. The forces of Hell are going to give him the chance to do just that.
Writer/director Justin P. Lange’s previous film, The Dark, put a fresh and effective spin on the flesh-eating undead. Now he’s turned his attention to the exorcism film, trying to reinvent it as well. What he ended up with was a supernatural take on Training Day.
Unfortunately, The Seventh Day can’t muster any of that film’s intensity. Peter takes Daniel to a homeless camp to see if he can detect the presence of evil spirits. Daniel does indeed find one, resulting in a large explosion. But rather than being dramatic the sight of a scruffy-looking tent flying into the road and a possessed bag lady licking the young trainee is unintentionally funny.
Similarly, when Daniel walks through a house where young Charlie Giroux (Brady Jenness, The Sinner) just killed his family to pick up impressions of what happened isn’t scary. It actually had me feeling for the killer. His parents are abusive and the priest brought in to counsel him is trying to molest him. While this should at least be disturbing it’s so flatly presented it’s actually dull.
Things don’t get any better as The Seventh Day goes on. It should surprise absolutely no one that Charlie is possessed, a Ouija Board is involved as is the exorcism we see at the start of the film. Likewise, we get levitation and the child speaking in a deep demonic voice, it’s all here.
In The Dark, Lange created a new creature and used it to tell a new story. In The Seventh Day, he’s trying to make old clichés seem new by telling the story in a different way and it just doesn’t work. What it needed was a fresh approach and fresh ideas. You can only do so much with things we’ve been seeing since The Exorcist. There is an attempt at a last act twist, but even that is so overused the first attempt to hint at it gives it away.
As Father Daniel Vadhir Derbez seems to be sleepwalking through his role. There are points in the film where, even as all Hell is breaking loose, he looks bored. And if he’s not scared, why should I be? Out of the rest of the cast, Keith David is barely in the film. Guy Pierce does what he can with a poorly written part and Stephen Lang (VFW, Don’t Breathe) is wasted as their Archbishop.
Despite several characters meeting nasty fates, the gore is mostly kept offscreen. Perhaps if we’d gotten a good look at just what this demon was capable of it might have seemed more imposing. Even if it didn’t, at least it would have added some badly needed spice to The Seventh Day.
Lange has proven he has talent and can deliver a superior film. He needs to go back and take a long look at what made The Dark work before he makes his next film. Unless he wants a career pushing out generic, by the numbers, DTV fodder.
Vertical Entertainment will release The Seventh Day to select theatres and on-demand services on March 26th. You can check their Facebook page for details.