Throughout my many years of covering and reviewing movies I’ve been pretty vocal about my belief that Guy Pearce is (and for a long time has been) one of the most underrated and undervalued actors in the business today. He’s charismatic, incredibly diverse, and easily one of the industry’s busiest workers (he has FOUR films coming out in 2021). Sure, occasionally he will lay an egg and attach himself to a really bad movie (look no further than last year’s “Disturbing the Peace”). But far more often than not, Pearce delivers the goods and he deserves bigger and more prestigious roles.
Unfortunately (and it pains me to say it) his latest film “The Seventh Day” is closer to a rotten egg than a tasty omelette. The supernatural buddy-exorcist flick from writer-director Justin P. Lange teases us with some cool albeit wacky potential. But that’s not where his interests lie. Instead Lange shoots for a more serious horror movie – one that borrows too much from other films and struggles to muster any energy much less genuine chills.
Pearce plays Father Peter, a renowned exorcist known for his “unconventional” methods. He’s both scarred and driven by the loss of his mentor (Keith David) who was slain during a harrowing exorcism that also saw a child burn alive in their bed. That was 25 years ago. Now Father Peter is one of the few exorcists remaining after the Vatican stepped away from the ritual following some bad headlines. So he works underground for the New Orleans Arch Bishop (Stephen Lang), training new recruits to help fight the growing number of demonic possessions.
Next under his wing is a young rookie priest named Father Daniel (played by a dry and ever dour Vadhir Derbez). With a pinch of “Training Day” and a tiny dash of “Se7en”, the two head out into the field where the seasoned but offish Peter tosses Daniel headfirst into a demon encounter (‘baptized by fire’ for those itching for a bad pun). Soon they’re investigating a particularly gruesome murder where a young boy named Charlie (Brady Jenness) butchered his parents and sister with an ax. The state says the boy is mentally incompetent to stand trial and belongs in an institution. But Peter suspects something far more sinister at work and sees this as the perfect case for Daniel to cut his teeth on.
Pretty simple plot but enough for a reasonably entertaining diversion. The problem is “The Seventh Day” keeps everything on a surface level – no depth to the characters, no depth to the story. It also doesn’t help that the two lead actors are so terribly mismatched on screen. Pearce at least looks comfortable and you can buy him in his role. Although watching him maneuver through the erratic dialogue is pretty funny and his ability to utter lines like “the epitome of darkness” with a straight face is a testament to his commitment. Derbez on the other hand goes through the entire movie with the same stunned, deer-in-the-headlights expression. It’s not entirely his fault, but at times he seems lost and unsure especially when next to Pearce.
Aside from an occasionally unnerving image from DP Nick Remy Matthews or a creepy chord from composer Gavin Brivik, “The Seventh Day” doesn’t do enough to get under our skin. Material like this should be unsettling and make us squirm. But it all comes across as pretty generic despite having an enticing general premise and at least one capable lead. And as for Pearce, this probably won’t be included in his end-of-career highlight reel. “The Seventh Day” is now available to stream on VOD.
VERDICT – 2 STARS