Can we put a stop to writer/directors boasting that they wrote films in two weeks? Just sayin’, because that’s a proud boast if you just won a prestigious screenwriting award or a Golden Lion. It doesn’t seem like such a triumph if you film is currently getting dumped on by critics and viewers alike. A script is a planning document and can be written in a frantic day; writing a good one takes time. So that admonishment of The Seventh Day’s Justin P Lange should sting a little, but to be fair, his film isn’t quite the debacle many claim.
The Seventh Day is straight-to Netflix fodder in the UK, with the streaming service seemingly staking its reputation on finding and curating selections of slightly broken films. The cast for this Exorcist sub-genre effort is a draw; Keith David, Stephen Lang and Guy Pearce is a more-than respectable acting ensemble. David has a fleeting cameo as a priest named Father Louis in the opening scene, in which his exorcism of a young boy turns violent and David gets a crucifix through the neck. Viewing this event has a lasting impact on Father Peter (Pearce) who becomes a tough cop exorcist, and starts a Training Day-style relationship with the inexperienced Father Daniel Garcia (Vadhir Derbez). Peter shows Garcia the ropes, but with evil hiding in the most unexpected places, can Garcia trust Peter as they attempt to exorcise a young boy?
Lange favours in-camera effects, which cuts down the usual CGI nonsense of today’s horror, and the acting is generally far better than this type of hokum requires; Pearce is a stand-out here, as he most often is. But, spoiler alert, the film does have a odd twist, one previously seen in Ator the Fighting Eagle. If Peter turns out a demon all along, why does he spend so much time and effort teaching his pupil exactly how to kill him? Am I missing something, or does that teacher-as-villain twist make no sense?
Involvement levels aren’t exactly sky-high here, but much of Lange’s film pushes forward in a reasonably literate style, and there’s a few neat scenes and reversals, as well as a nice conspiracy angle about The Vatican. While no masterpiece, it’s miles better than huge hits like The Devil Inside, and might even be worth considering as an unofficial offshoot of the played-out Conjuring movies. If nothing else, it sets up at least one sequel, with a number of turbulent priests out there for our hero to free us from….