Saturday, January 11, 2014

7TH DAY (2012) movie review

7th Day (2012) d. Jason M. Koch (USA)

Allen (Mark S. Sanders) is an active serial killer finally receiving his 15 minutes of fame. Accompanied by a documentary news team, he discusses the philosophy behind his “selections” (i.e. victims) and what they mean to him, he explains that he doesn’t get the same sense of fulfillment from murdering men which is why he sticks to females (although he’s not above shooting a fellow who is an obstacle or presents a potential threat), he waxes nostalgic about his humble beginnings, he reveals his predilections for occasionally having sex with the corpses or even cannibalizing them (“I don’t really like the taste, but I enjoy the concept.”) In short, Allen is a fascinating, intelligent, articulate subject, one perfectly suited to prime time....

Except when we are allowed to eavesdrop on Allen’s life and see the pathetic, confused, dim-witted, socially awkward, and delusional creature that he truly is. He’s a dishwasher at a greasy spoon diner, his co-workers can’t stand him, the waitress that he pines for (Daisy Gibb) regards him with barely concealed contempt, he lives in squalor next to an abrasive coke-snorting loony (Michael Brecher). His evenings are spent constructing drinking straw sculptures and watching droning television programs intermixed with hallucinations. In short, Allen is a mess, his only solace being the abuse of drugs and alcohol, the taking of human life, and the telling of his story to a (fictitious) interviewer to justify his sad and sordid existence.

It is this duplicitous presentation that gives 7th Day both its hook and its juice. It’s easy to imagine Allen having watched too many true crime documentaries (or maybe stumbling onto a copy of Man Bites Dog) and, wanting to create purpose for his life and deeds, conjuring an imaginary reporter to follow him around, a nightmarish scribbler resembling a cross between one of Hellraiser’s cenobites and a Ken doll left too long near the radiator. The week that we’re presented as a glimpse into Allen’s life doesn’t necessarily have a strong narrative arc; the real innovation is how director Koch and screenwriter Mark Leake have conceived a protagonist/antagonist who manages to ingratiate himself to the viewer through his reasoned and insightful viewpoints of what it means to be a serial killer, even as we see the lonely and broken individual he truly is. Koch demonstrates genuine vision here, in that sometimes the “interview” only takes place in Allen’s mind (as voiceover) and others he actually speaks aloud into the delusional microphone, or shots of our "hero" walking down the street alone, then cutting to a shot with the intrepid reporter sharing the frame.

For his part, Leake presents us with a variety of unsavory details dropped casually into the conversation, such as Allen’s suicidal father, or his mother performing fellatio on his older brother, the same sibling that would occasionally sodomize him at night. A model upbringing this was not, but Sanders delivers the information in such flat, reasoned tones that the sordid backstory rings of truth rather than premeditated shock material.

For eager gorehounds, there are bucketloads of the red stuff, courtesy of Kaleigh Brown (who also dished out the impressive splatter for the solid slasher comedy President’s Day) with Koch, also an effects artist, presumably throwing in his estimable two cents worth. We have body parts of all shapes and sizes, flesh being carved off the bone, fingers snipped off, knives stuck into necks and backs, heads sawn off, entrails smeared around, etc. It’s rare that such gratuitous bloodletting is so expertly woven into an intriguing character study, allowing horror fans to have their intellects and gag reflexes equally stimulated.

This is not to say there aren’t the occasional low budget stumbles. Excepting the terrific Sanders, who is convincing both as a remorseless killer and a whining coward, some of the performances are a little on the shaky side, and a couple scenes (such as the one where a hot blonde jogger starts hitting on Allen, only to be repulsed when he urinates on himself) lack the authenticity of the rest of the plot. Additionally, while most of the aforementioned gore holds up to close scrutiny, there are times when the rubbery nature of the prop lessens the desired dramatic effect, taking the viewer out of the story to contemplate the stunt itself.

But these are minor flaws in what is an undeniably impressive indie effort; Koch and Leake are clearly names to keep an eye on for the future, and 7th Day is a worthy addition to your serial killer catalog.  Available for purchase now on Amazon - click HERE to order.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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