Friday, December 20, 2013
7TH DAY: A Blood-Soaked Character Study
Director: Jason M. Koch
Seen via: Digital Screener
Rating: 6 / 10
"Hi, I'm Allen, and this is what I do," we're told via voiceover as a man breaks into a woman's house and stabs her in the neck. When a film opens like this, my first thought is: this character better be fascinating. Because if I'm going to watch a unabashed psychopath kill and dismember people for a entire feature-length film, I want to leave feeling like I've gained some insight into the nature of the beast. Thankfully, 7th Day is more than your average gore showcase, and leads us deep into the caves of this killer's mind as he wrangles with his tortured psyche.
After being introduced to Allen (Mark S. Sanders), we follow him over the course of a week in his life as he works his demeaning job as a dishwasher for a bar and grill, suffers insults from his boss and co-workers, and longs to connect with the young waitress Denise (Daisy Gibb). On his own time he hangs out with his abrasive neighbor Bill (Michael Brecher), obsessively builds cubes out of various household materials, and fills notebooks with intricate grids of numbers. Oh, and there's the murder. Allen's primary hobby is murdering people.
The inner workings of Allen's mind are slowly revealed through his voice-over narration, which is framed as a interview between him and a ghostly specter who looks as if his skin has begun to melt. Allen's articulate and matter-of-fact narration is wildly divergent from his real-world actions. Well-rehearsed conversations with Denise leave his mouth as rambling monologues accompanied by blank-eyed stares. "I can control myself," he assures us as he takes long swigs of whiskey while in the driver's seat of his car. His calm rationalization of his crimes stand in stark opposition to his unhinged behavior.
Speaking of unhinged, this is a movie drenched in filth, from the trash-littered living room where Allen watches TV to the grimy bathroom in which he dismembers his victims. Even as he's dissecting his victims, Allen has no illusions about their beauty, and states up front that all humans are ugly inside. Not a far stretch when you realize the people he interacts with are pretty awful on the outside as well. The vileness is enhanced by the superb practical effects, which will no doubt leave gorehounds satisfied. It sometimes seems a little gratuitous, but nobody promised that the mind of a serial killer would be pretty.
This is also a film populated almost exclusively by scum. Allen is a hard character to like. The glimpses we get into his tortured psyche almost allow for some sympathy, but it's always negated by his actions. Everyone Allen interacts with is nasty to him in some way or another, a fact that makes sense when you realize the entire film is filtered through his mind. Allen and his neighbor Bill exemplify the worst kinds of misogyny and homophobia, and their drunken rants grow a little tiresome.
What justifies all the difficult material I've just mentioned is Allen's continual self-examination and his crisis of faith. Denise is the one constant in Allen's life that makes him reconsider his actions. A few shreds of Allen's conscience hold on against all odds and threaten to tear his mind in half. Above all the gore and filth, 7th Day is a story about self-realization.
A revelation of sorts does come at the end, although maybe not one you'd expect. It's chilling, and rather clever. Fans of films such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Tony, and Angst should check out 7th Day. The bleakness is sometimes overpowering, and writing about it now is causing the bad taste it left in my mouth to resurface a little bit. But if you're in search of a solid feel-bad film and are willing to indulge a repulsive main character, this may be one for you.
7th Day is currently available on DVD. Thanks to writer Mark Leake for a screener copy of the film. Read more about 7th Day and Dire Wit Films at direwitfilms.com.