Home Video Hovel- 7 Below, by Sarah Brinks
7 Below is a swing and a miss. It is clearly aiming to be another entrant into the supernatural horror genre but in the end is just a jumbled mess that requires its audience to make their own logic leaps in order to keep up.
The plot is nothing new: a group of strangers are in a car crash end up in a creepy house in the middle of nowhere and then people start dying. The characters make all the classic horror movie blunders that were pointed out in the Scream films leaving the audience bored and unsympathetic. The house the vacationers end up at is owned by a mysterious stranger named Jack (played by Ving Rhames). Rhames is doing some of his worst work in this movie. All he needs is a mustache to twirl to complete his stock character. He doesn’t have a genuine or believable moment in the movie. Val Kilmer plays Bill, the husband in an unhappy marriage with his wife Brooklyn (Bonnie Somerville). Kilmer is also doing some of his worst work in 7 Below, it made me long for his more subtle days of Top Gun and Tombstone. The rest of the supporting cast is a saving grace; they keep the movie from being unwatchable. Matt Barr and Luke Goss play brothers Adam and Isaac who went on vacation to reconnect after their mother’s death. They both commit to their roles and give good performances. Somerville’s performance as Brooklyn makes her seem like a real person and not just a screaming blonde. Rebecca Da Costa plays Courtney the movies required “eye-candy”. You sometimes feel she has to act through her Brazilian accent but she does a decent job.
7 Below is extremely dependent on events that happen off the screen, which leaves the viewer feeling like they missed a step. For example, after the van crash that leaves the group stranded in the woods, Jack just appears at the crash site offering to take everyone to his house to wait out the thunderstorm. You never see him arrive and his presence is never explained. I’d like to give the writers credit that they wrote it that way to give the audience a feeling of discomfort and suspicion, but I think it was just bad storytelling and editing. The cuts between scenes make it feel like half the movie was left on the editing room floor. There is no flow or logic to where the characters are in relation to each other and their environment from scene to scene.
There are a number of themes 7 Below introduces, but like the plot and characters, they are poorly executed and underdeveloped. ‘Time being out of joint’ is one such underdeveloped theme. There is a beautiful grandfather clock in the farmhouse and there are many cuts to the clock, at one point it starts running backwards and then forwards again. I think the director/writers were trying to show that laws of nature and time do not apply anymore, but it is unclear. There is also an attempted theme about ‘home’. Many lines of dialog are about coming home, or being home, feeling at home, and belonging somewhere. This flows into the theme of ‘reincarnation’, which is also touched upon several times throughout the movie, but to no real effect.
By the end, the movie is a hot mess. Don’t worry about spoilers; I don’t even think I could spoil 7 Below because it makes no sense. I even watched the movie twice to see if I missed something, but there was nothing to miss. The writers needed to pick one single idea and stick with it. There were already ghosts in the movie then they started adding in reincarnation and demons to the mix. I think the writers had too many ideas in their heads when they wrote the script to execute any of them successfully. I rarely accuse filmmakers of expecting too much from their audience, but if Kevin Caraway and Lawrence Sara think that audiences will understand this film they were greatly mistaken. The movie simply tries to be too clever for its own good. It might have been satisfying at least as a horror movie if there had been a few legitimate scares in it, but all the attempted scares are so broadcast they end up being completely ineffective.
The 7 Below DVD has no special features except the theatrical trailer. The picture and sound quality are good, but it’s like putting lipstick on a pig… it’s still a pig. I do not recommend you buy, rent, or stream 7 Below. I don’t like to be overly critical and I think all films have some merit but 7 Below is the kind of poorly executed, never scary movie that belongs on Chiller TV at 2am on a Wednesday.