Scroll through Netflix’s horror selection. How many demonic possession movies pop up? Oh, there’s The Possession of Hannah Grace. And then there’s The Assent, Soul to Keep, Mark of the Devil, and The Unborn. Keep scrolling and you’ll also find The Crucifixion, Paranormal Investigation, and Sabrina. On any given day, there seems to be a never ending list. And most of these movies aren’t particularly good. For every The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby, you’ll get a dozen generic demonic possession rip-offs. Just about every story that could be told probably has made it to the screen. But that doesn’t stop filmmakers from trying. Following his promising debut, The Dark, writer and director Justin Lange gives the exorcism movie a shot with The Seventh Day. Can Lange mine scares from a stripped sub-genre? To date, most critics say no.
Years ago a young priest, Father Peter Costello, faced a powerful demon in an exorcism that ended in tragedy. Now a grizzled veteran in demon-fighting, Father Costello trains young priests as exorcists for the Vatican. With a young, inexperienced priest in two Father Costello investigate a young boy who murdered his family – and who may be possessed.
The Seventh Day Blends Sub-Genres in Odd Mix
To his credit, writer and director Justin P Lange tries his best to do something new with the demonic possession story. Things certainly start off with some promise. The Seventh Day’s opening scene, while slavishly devoted to what we’ve already seen in countless exorcism movies, is stylishly shocking. That is, Lange puts some striking visuals up on the screen. Occasionally, Lange makes excellent use of dark hallways and other familiar horror settings. At least, The Seventh Day teases that it may have some power to unnerve audiences. Unfortunately, Lange isn’t able to follow through on that promise.
…Lange puts up some striking visuals up on the screen.
As The Seventh Day settles into its story, Lange attempts to blend two sub-genres with debatable success. For much of its middle act, The Seventh Day is one part demonic possession horror, one part ‘buddy cop’ movie. To say it’s an odd blend would be an understatement. It’s kind of like Training Day but with clerical collars and demons. Scenes of Costello testing Father Garcia’s demon-detecting abilities in a homeless shelter produce a decent scare. But it’s also a tonally off scene – it’s different, but it doesn’t work. Somewhere amidst these disparate genres, The Seventh Day touches on institutional corruption within the Church. Had Lange devoted more time to this story thread we may have ended up with a unique demonic possession movie.
The Seventh Day Falls Into Familiar Conventions Even as It Attempts a Twist
Once The Seventh Day finds its demon and increasingly pivots to its horror elements, things further derail. As a director, Lange knows how to stage some creepy images. Undoubtedly, he’s a talented filmmaker. Yet The Seventh Day often overextends its own budget. While some scenes work, others feel unintentionally funny due to either mixed VFX or lapses in logic. A police station massacre has some nice visual moments, but the ease with which its forgotten seems ridiculous. Most viewers will also piece together Lange’s twist pretty quickly. The idea itself is interesting; the execution feels clumsy and underwhelming.
The idea itself is interesting; the execution feels clumsy and underwhelming.
Poor Guy Pearce. A talented actor who headlined classics like Memento and LA Confidential, Pearce (The Spinning Man) has recently found himself in some forgettable fare. Usually, Pearce at least manages to be the best part of these middle-of-the-road affairs. Here, Pearce feels like he’s largely going through the motions. Even a sleepwalking Pearce is still good. And there’s also something mildly watching Pearce chew the scenery in the climax. Opposite Pearce, Vadhir Derbez (Father Daniel Garcia) gives a rather flat performance. Despite being prominently featured in the promotional materials, Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe) barely factors into the movie.
The Seventh Day Has Its Moments, But Doesn’t Possess Enough Ideas to Make It Stand Out
Despite a promising start and some interesting ideas, The Seventh Day can’t quite exoricse the feeling that you’ve already seen it. Lange clearly has talent for the genre, but he’s arguably too ambitious here. Some story threads feel unexplored, while others just don’t mesh. Overacting, flat performances, and occasionally hokey effects don’t help either. With so many similar movies at horror fans’ fingertips, The Seventh Day has little to recommend.