JULY 15, 2009
I’ve often wondered how many fictional authors and/or their families would be alive today if they could just learn how to write in the house that they already lived in. It seems to never really work out for them, because not only do they never finish their book, they are always besieged by ghosts, possession, psychotic mailmen... (I still want to read a novel about four poker buddies that knock over a casino). So I am happy to report (spoil) that the nice folks in 7 Days To Live not only survive, but they publish a book that goes on to sell into a third edition in under a year!
Unfortunately that’s about the only original thing about the movie. The rest cribs heavily from The Shining, with some Poltergeist thrown in for good measure. Like Kubrick’s version of King’s book, our protagonist goes crazy pretty much the instant he sets foot in the house, rendering him wholly unlikable. In Shining it kind of worked because we all love Jack Nicholson, so even though he was never really “nice” in the movie, you’re not completely turned off, because... it’s Jack! And then, folks often complain about “replacing” Jack with Steven Weber for the TV version of Shining, but at least the guy was actually sympathetic based on his onscreen role. Sean Pertwee doesn’t benefit from either scenario - he’s instantly crazy, but he’s not quite as lovable as Jack Nicholson. A badass yes, but not likable.
Sort of luckily, the wife isn’t much better. Since she’s played by Amanda Plummer, you can guarantee that she’s already a bit kooky - the haunted house doesn’t even seem to really change her demeanor. But it also makes her character hard to sympathize with, because she never really stands up for herself, even when Pertwee goes completely apeshit in the film’s final act (tied to a bed after being knocked out and dragged around the house, she still hopes they can work things out). They never really feel like a real husband and wife either; at first I thought they might be brother and sister, as their “happy mode” bickering has no romantic chemistry to it. And they are pretty much the only two people in the movie most of the time (they have a couple of pals, and the requisite kindly older “guy who knows the story”, but they are never placed in any danger), so not a hell of a lot happens; Plummer sees something weird, tells an annoyed Pertwee who usually yells at her or throws something, then the next day she sees something else weird, and apparently forgets that he doesn’t care because she tries to tell him again, starting the cycle over again.
Pet Sematary is also borrowed from, so it’s good that just watched it the other day. Not only do we have a young kid dying (complete with a NOOOOOOOO!), but a character dreams about something evil in their backyard, only to wake up with muddy feet.
But it’s not too bad. Plummer and Pertwee are always interesting to watch, and it’s rare to see them carry a film. It goes through the motions, but in a way that’s more or less enjoyable. Since they are both crazy, the finale is pretty amusing, as they just start whaling on each other, War of the Roses style. And I liked the ridiculous manner in which Plummer got her titular warnings: the first one is on a street sign (do all the people driving by have seven days to live?), another is delivered by a radio weatherman. My favorite has to be her three days warning, when her Scrabble tiles tell her as much. Not only am I a big Scrabble fan, but I am tickled that of all the days to use, they would use the one with the most letters. This results in her drawing NINE letters (twice) instead of the standard seven. If it was “Six Days” or “Two Days”, or even “For (sic) Days”, they could get their Scrabble scare and maintain accepted rules. Plus, if she has just drawn seven (or nine, fine) letters, that means she just played a bingo, so good for her!
On the disc’s only extra feature (5 minutes’ worth of interviews), the director proudly states that this is “the first German haunted house movie”, so there’s something. I’ve wanted to see more foreign films from countries not often associated with horror (i.e. Italian and Asian), and Germany is certainly a country I haven’t seen too much from (I think Antibodies is the only other one I’ve watched). Hopefully they have some more original stuff to discover. But at least this one stole from the best; I don’t need to see a German-fied version of The Haunting remake or whatever.
What say you?
P.S. The trailer is in German. Only one I could find. I like it; Sean Pertwee's dubber is amazing.