Every day can be a wonderful day for an exorcism, so long as it’s handled right. Get the right pair of faith-fearing heroes to show the forces of evil they’re cross, and you might be compelled to stick around. That’s certainly something The Seventh Day director Justin P. Lange tries to capture in his latest horror and does an amicable job in its opening, before things go to hell. All the key ingredients are there; a young priest and a long-time servant of God (Keith David) quote the good book as a kid throws himself around the room, and his voice even further. Like a lot of possession movies, they’ve become less scary and more of an unholy hostage negotiation that the hero is trying deal with. This one unfortunately doesn’t go as planned, leaving an impact on the young priest to go it alone and grow up to become grizzled go-to exorcist, Father Peter (Guy Pearce).
Now while he may share his name, this fella is no saint. Peter is the church’s loose cannon, an expeller of evil who rarely goes by the good book and isn’t worried about the consequences.
It’s these traits that may or may not rub off on his new partner, Father Daniel (Vadhir Derbez) who hits the road alongside his new mentor to learn and be a force of good for the land of the living, against all those that wish them dead. The biggest test though, comes in the form of a young boy that has been taken by just such a demonic force, hellbent on causing even more horrors than he’s already committed.
If this sounds like Training Day against the devil, that’s because The Seventh Day has every chance to put that to into effect and squanders the opportunity. From the off, Guy Pearce’s seasoned spirit remover tries to put the fear of god into his new recruit but has all the intensity and reaction of a wet blanket. It’s even more frustrating given the capability Pearce has that is never fully utilised here. Providing just enough to qualify for the smart-mouthed, worn down warrior who’s ran out of of holy fucks to give, Pearce at times feels like he’s channeling that of Keanu Reeve’s Constantine. Annoyingly though, Lange’s script doesn’t allow him to stretch his character, and ultimately his new partnership as far as it could clearly go. It almost feels like a cameo; not quite all there but something you want more of and don’t get. Instead the attention is diverted to his co-star, who has even less to work with than the film’s top-billed star.
Every effort is made to make The Seventh Day Derbez’s film, but at no point does it feel like it. The set up might be there to see our young hero taken under the crooked wing of his teacher, but Lange’s limp and lifeless script gives no opportunity for either of the two to click and bounce off one another. Instead, they move in an out of various spooky scenes that show some imagination but don’t feel like they really serve much purpose. Seeing a possessed individual eating broken glass like a poppadom while gnarly as all hell, doesn’t build any sense of dread or unease for either heroic parties involved. The shock value feels alarmingly low and it continues to tumble as neither the supposed veteran of demonic possession and his new sidekick are barely invested in any of it. If they aren’t scared for their lives, why should we?
The biggest sin of The Seventh Day though, is in its final act. When the film’s last drop of holy water and hope is spent, this ho-hum horror ends with a twist so signposted that when it does reveal itself, you almost feel angry the film committed to even following through with it. Less of a jaw-dropping revelation and more of last ditch effort at redemption, it affirms that even with all its occasional breaks of striking blood and gore, it’s still just another horror that can’t exorcise the far superior possession movies that came before it. In the end, The Seventh Day really is one that’s totally wasted.
Dazzler Media presents The Seventh Day on DVD and Digital from 26th April, 2021