APRIL 18, 2012
I was delighted to see that my Blockbuster has finally stocked some new horror movies (3 or 4 at least), but I hope I “lucked out” and picked the worse of the lot with 7 Below, an interminable and unimaginative blend of slasher and Ring-type angry ghost nonsense. It was the only one of the group that had recognizable actors, and even sounded the most interesting – for my sake I pray that the other ones just had lousy publicity/marketing folks behind their DVD cases and are actually decent movies.
Sometimes you can tell right off the bat that a movie’s gonna be soulless, and 7 Below did not prove my theory wrong. I noticed in the credits that the writers were listed before the producers, which is unusual nowadays – a few years ago the WGA (or some guild/union/group looking out for writers) lobbied to get their opening credit moved up so that they came 2nd last, after the producers but before the director (always the last in an opening title sequence; reverse the above for end credits). Most films have complied, but every now and then you see one that didn’t get the memo – more often than not they suck. But this one was particularly troubling because the script credit was followed by “From Producers” followed by a few names, and then another half dozen producers after that, followed (finally) by the director. Now, if it’s Jerry Bruckheimer or Joel Silver, yeah, I can see maybe wanting to give them a bit more of a prominent placement. But these guys? Who the hell are they? A bunch of guys who don’t know how to produce a horror movie, that’s who.
(Yes, I take credits a bit too seriously – it’s my day job. But you can legitimately learn a lot just by taking notice of these things.)
You’d think with all these producers, someone would have produced some lights. I can (and will) go on about the movie’s scripting/acting issues, but even if those were solid this would still qualify as a bad movie simply because of how technically incompetent it is. Characters and objects blend into the background more often than not, and there’s no detail in anything – this is what happens when you use digital and you don’t know how to make up for its limitations. Film needs light too, but the difference is, it can also differentiate between this dark thing and that dark thing, because film has a life to it. Digital, on the other hand, can’t “compute” these things when the lighting is this low, so all of those 1s and 0s get jumbled and you end up with the awful and murky look that this film displays nearly from start to finish. I suspected it might have been a poorly made DVD, but the (very rare) daytime scenes look fine – they’d be washed out if this was just a poor transfer. If you plan on watching this thing, I hope you like the sight of crushed grey, because it makes up 60% of the image throughout the film.
More problematic was the awkward, confusing script, which favors off-screen events to an alarming degree. Some of the kills, Ving Rhames arriving on scene after their “accident” (where the car hit a tree going maybe 15 mph, which somehow killed the driver even though the windshield wasn’t even damaged), so we just get all these strange “aftermath” scenes where they talk about what just happened. I can assume this was a budgetary issue, but maybe NOT hire two well-known actors for the movie when one will do. Rhames as the mysterious owner of the house is fine, but why did they spend dough on Val Kilmer as one of the random people in the group? I assume it’s to make us surprised when (spoiler) he dies first, but it’s the furthest thing possible from a surprise because that’s just the way it goes when it comes to faded stars appearing in non-showy roles in these things (and again with the credit “hints” – the “AND Val Kilmer” signifier is also a dead giveaway). Plus he’s clearly bored out of his mind and not even trying to act, so it was just a total waste of money that could have been used on a few lights or actually shooting some of the action. And it does his ever plummeting appeal no favors to boot. Everyone loses.
Then there’s the story, which is based on the screenwriters’ half-remembered account of The Grudge, complete with the ghost being stuck in the angry moment of death or whatever. One by one the characters are killed (again, usually off-screen) and then we finally learn why, as the ghost needs to kill 7 people the same way that 7 people were killed 100 years ago (oh so it’s a bit of The Fog too!) in order to break the curse or whatever. And, you know, fine – I could care less about the specifics as long as the movie’s fun/good, but when you’ve botched everything else I’m going to pick on those too. You need to earn some goodwill before we can start forgiving the flaws, and this movie earns none.
The killer’s identity is also obvious from the start, even with a clumsy attempt at misdirecting us by having Rhames and the killer share a scene together away from the others. Word of advice – if you want us to believe that a character is normal and most certainly NOT a killer, don’t have her randomly accept a 100 year old wedding dress as something to wear because her current clothes are a little wet. Just have someone offer her a towel and hope no one in the audience notices the contrived manner in which they ended up at the house (and how no one died until after said person arrived). Christ this movie is stupid.
Also, I’ve decided that any movie in which the villain says “I go by many names…” is automatically deserving of a kick in the balls. Not to mention that it actually has a bathroom mirror scare – I mean, come on. You’re not even trying! The only thing worse would be a twist ending where – oh, it has one of those too. It’s like they had a checklist or something. The best thing I can say about it is that the DVD is thankfully bare-bones, offering only a trailer which spoils most of the deaths and even the killer’s identity, though I guess out of context that might not be as clear as it seems. It’s also funny to see how the trailer shows their accident and Rhames’ arrival, which you’d assume was chopped up to get the point across, but it’s actually pretty close to how it plays out in the actual movie.
The most entertained I was by the film was when I looked at its IMDb page after. Among all of the negative user reviews (they didn’t even bother to plant one?) I discovered that a couple of those producers were also behind yesterday’s Anniversary At Shallow Creek. Sorry for beating you up so much this week, folks! Just, you know, make better movies. Or move onto a different genre so I don’t have to risk suffering through another of your lazy efforts. It’s not like I’m going to do RomComADay.com or something – make a couple of those, leave horror to those who know what they’re doing. We fans would appreciate it.
What say you?