The Seventh Day
2021, R, 87 min. Directed by Justin P. Lange. Starring Guy Pearce, Vadhir Derbez, Brady Jenness, Stephen Lang, Keith David, Robin Bartlett.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., March 26, 2021
When evil abounds, and demonic possessions are rife all over Baltimore, who do you call? Father Peter, the street-tough exorcist priest who knows the scale of the evil that the world faces, and is prepared to cut a few procedural corners to conquer it. And who do you cast when you've got a mid-tier supernatural thriller that needs a low-key but charismatic, talented but not showboaty, and recognizable actor to play one of the leads? Guy Pearce, of course, and without him under Peter's decidedly unpriestly demeanor then middling supernatural chiller The Seventh Day would barely raise a flutter of attention, never mind a spirit.
After a career of dispatching demons, Peter is called in on the case of a vile spirit who has a habit of possessing young kids and using them to commit murder. This time it's Charlie (Jeness), who one-upped Lizzie Borden and gave every family member 40 whacks. Yet Peter's not going in alone, as the archdiocese has assigned freshman exorcist Father Daniel (Derbez) to tag along.
Blame The Exorcist. Even William Friedkin does, because it feels like every exorcism drama follows the same equation that he and Peter Blatty created for the seminal supernatural shocker. Yes, most of what you think about exorcism was made up for that film, and The Seventh Day hews close to that model, even down to the old priest/young priest trying to save the soul of a young child, all enabling an increasingly monstrous series of special effects. But the real precedent is Training Day, with Peter as the morally flexible Alonzo, and Derbez as the fresh meat whose book learnin' won't save them on the street. Every time they meet with their assigning archbishop, it's pure 1970s cop drama (it's astonishing that the man in the big hat doesn't yell that the boys in the Vatican are chewing his ass, and he'll have Peter's collar and Bible if he can't toe the line, goddammit!). As the old beat cop, er, priest, Peter keeps sending rookie Daniel into the fray, then turning up with a wry grin and weathered attitude to save the day.
The Seventh Day burns a little brighter whenever Pearce's priest is there to knock some demon heads, and there's a strange sensation that he was taking some notes from John Constantine, DC's laconic and world-weary magician. Peter is arguably, accidentally, the most loyal version of that character we've seen on the screen. Keanu Reeves' Constantine was a big, weird supernatural blockbuster that is nothing to do with the comics. The CW's Hellblazer show was fun, but it softened all of the streetlevel sorceror's hard edges. Pearce is probably closer to the comic's antihero version of the character than anyone has ever dared to go, and that would be wonderful – if it wasn't for the fact that he's barely in it. Instead, there's a lot of Daniel taking increasingly ridiculous risks to protect Charlie. Considering the rippling scandals and allegations concerning producers Cinestate, Pearce is probably lucky that he's got such reduced screen time, but it doesn't make The Seventh Day any more watchable.