DECEMBER 2, 2011
Much like They Came Back, Seven Days is a French (well, French Canadian) film takes a very dramatic, borderline non-horror approach to standard horror subgenre. In the former it was zombies, and here it's the torture/revenge thriller, with a suspected child rapist/murderer being subjected to a week's worth of pain at the hands of the father of his most recent victim. But it's not played for scares or even much in the way of suspense - there isn't even a score that I ever noticed (though someone is credited with the music, so there must have been SOME in there, somewhere).
It's also not too complicated, which was a bit of a relief after having seen yesterday's "Father seeks his daughter's killer" movie, which was too over-plotted for me to ever just enjoy as a thriller. It ALSO keeps the movie from turning into The Tortured, the wholly ridiculous Bill Moseley movie that has a similar plot (the dads are both doctors, in fact). I should note that Seven Days is based on a novel from 2002, so I wonder if that Moseley movie (which still hasn't been released in the US) was "inspired" by Patrick Senecal's original book. But either way, that film dipped into Saw territory with complicated torture acts and 3rd act twists, whereas this one stays grounded in little more than straight drama - even some of the more vicious revenge acts are off-screen.
Actually maybe director Daniel Grou didn't show these things because it would mean adding loud sounds (i.e. a man screaming as he was castrated) to the film, which is unnervingly quiet for most of its run time. I already pointed out the lack of music, but there's practically no sound AT ALL for long stretches at a time, as the dad just contemplates what he's done, or looks at a slowly decomposing deer in his yard, or any other minor act that can have you periodically checking to make sure no one put your receiver on mute. Even the on-screen scenes are fairly low volume; the two men converse but rarely raise their voices.
The fact that the father increases the severity of his acts is a bit underplayed, however, and I can't help but wonder if that would be more clear if the film was more explicit. The castration is off-screen and not really addressed; you just see an obvious excess of blood in his area on the final day. At first the dad is just doing standard stuff - he cripples one of his legs on day one, then whips him with a chain on day two, etc. Somewhere in there he pulls off his most gruesome act, an intestinal-based wound that will make Human Centipede fans might feel at home. Whether a guy could actually survive 7 days under these conditions is questionable, though considering the overly serious/dramatic tone of the film I'm sure Senecal did his research.
Otherwise, the only minor horror elements stem from the police's attempt to find dad before he kills the guy, giving it a thriller angle of sorts. But even that is played largely for drama, as the head cop had to settle for the guy who killed his wife merely going to jail, so there's a question of whether the cop will let the dad do his thing to get the closure he possibly desired for himself. The only reason I associated this stuff with horror is because they do one of those Silence Of The Lambs-esque "the cops swarm the wrong house" bits, which was painfully obvious since the house they were approaching didn't look anything like the one we know the dad was at. Also it was only like day four or something - the title promised seven, and we're gonna get them all!
But as long as you're not expecting a horror movie, it's pretty compelling as a drama, and even somewhat sad. All of the actors are terrific, Claude Legault as the dad and Rémy Girard as the cop in particular give top notch performances as shattered men; it's a shame the film gives them so few scenes together. I also liked Fanny Mallette as the mother, who takes surprisingly little involvement with the proceedings. There's a minor subplot about the fact that the dad didn't check the house voicemail (from the school principal asking why the daughter didn't show up) as soon as he could have, something Mallette keeps nagging him about - but there's no payoff. I kept thinking the killer would somehow reveal that had the dad checked his messages that she could have been saved in time or something, but it's never clear if it was already too late by then anyway. I guess the point is "Who cares, she's gone", but since it's pretty much the only thing the mom gets to do, it felt more important than the way its actually played.
It's a bit long though. Horror or not, the movie's thin storyline doesn't lend itself to just under 2 hours; 90 minutes would have been plenty, especially when it heads to a fairly obvious (and oddly abrupt) conclusion. There's a lengthy scene of Legault tearing a room apart; not only is it kind of pointless to begin with (he already know his frustration), but he does it SLOWLY! They also make too much out of the guys who are helping Legault (setting up a fake computer to track, helping him kidnap the guy in the first place, etc); elements that were probably more interesting (and fleshed out) in the source material but serve little purpose here. Apparently there's an even longer version (115 minutes as opposed to 111), but if some fan wanted to make a 90-95 minute cut I'd be interested in seeing it.
So, up to you. As I said the other day, I'm growing weary of these grim, joyless "horror" movies, and that one was a half hour shorter and offered the exciting "one take" cinematography, at least. And it's hard to recommend as a drama to the folks who enjoyed movies like Law Abiding Citizen or Eye For An Eye, because those audiences might get physically ill at the sight of the aforementioned "intestine" bit. All I know is, tomorrow's movie better be fun or I'm gonna quit 510 movies early.
What say you?