‘7th Day’ is a psychological documentation of a serial killer set over seven days as the title suggests that breaks the fourth wall and is reminiscent in ways to such works as John McNaugton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) and Jörg Buttgereit’s ‘Schramm’ (1993). Independently produced on a micro-budget and distributed by Dire Wit Films (international distribution is handled by Beneath The Underground on VOD) the film was released earlier this year in February on DVD.
It is grimy, sleazy, realistically handled yet surrealistic as well and is even darkly humorous lightening the mood to set you off course into a safety zone until you witness the potency of the impressively executed graphic depictions of gruesome murders and their aftermath with disturbing extreme gore. Kaleigh Brown provides the excellent special make-up effects with fellow SFX artist Jason M. Koch of Aftermath FX Studio serving as director showing off a great deal of talent behind the camera with real guts and vision for the material working from a thoughtful screenplay by Mark Leake. Director of photography Stephen Rubac employs a faded colour palette with the use of different filters and lighting techniques that is aided by Paul Joyce's minimal subtle score a mix of monotonous sounds and distortion to encase these proceedings in a bleak cold atmosphere.
Set in Baltimore, Maryland, Allen Dean (Mark S. Sanders) is a quiet man a lonely man a social misfit a drunken drug addicted slob a failure at life working as a dishwasher in a local restaurant. He is also a depraved pervert, a hopeless romantic and a deranged murderer who is on a journey of self-discovery to find his true calling in life and is torn between two paths. In his deluded state of mind, the creep sees himself as a cool person and a bit of a catch and fantasizes of a normal life with his co-worker the waitress Denise (Daisy Gibb) who he is obsessed with and believes he loves but she just sees him as the weirdo he is. He also gives much attention to his first love his pastime of killing people (mostly women, as he does not feel the same way about men) in grisly fashion that he has partaken in since he was a teenager stemming from a miserable tragic upbringing and sees it as his ticket to fame and to be somebody. He also dabbles in cannibalism, necrophilia and covering his naked body with warm human entrails… you know as you do. By the “7th day”, Allen realizes what he was born to do.
Keeping in mind such limited resources at their disposal Koch and Leake have created a tightly paced intelligent first-person point of view character driven piece with its narrative presented as a slice of life in the week of a serial killer with the material perfectly complementing these budgetary limitations. Uncomfortably we are made to be in the presence of sick fuck scumbag Allen (Sanders) the whole time as he narrates the macabre proceedings delivering compelling monologues as he descends deeper into his psychosis as the week goes on. He describes his horrific crimes and his thoughts and feelings of them as he carries them out and talks about how he makes his “selections”. He goes into his feelings for Denise and the connection he feels between them that only exist in his head with the imagery of his daydreams depicting them together showing us his hopeless romanticism and the deluded notion he has of himself. We also have insight into his terrible childhood.
As a figment of his imagination, Allen often gives interviews to a bluish ghoulish like creature, whose eyes and mouth are sealed up dressed as a 1950’s journalist wearing a porkpie hat and a long overcoat carrying an old style Dictaphone with the microphone fused into the flesh of its hand. This makes for very Cronenbergian imagery adding the surreal element and symbolizes Allen’s want of media coverage in his search of stardom. Allen’s horrid acts are shot in a matter of fact fashion to illustrate that this is a serial killer and this is what he does rather than just for the sake of it; as shocking as it all is it is not purely for shock value. The deep three-dimensional characterization of this serial killer is handled very well as he is such a sad pathetic delusional dim-witted socially awkward waste of human skin there is no way any viewer will want to identify and sympathize with him. He is no charming Hannibal Lecter type with cool quotable lines of dialogue becoming more of an anti-hero than a terrifying screen villain.
Mark S. Sanders gives the role of Allen his all with a thoroughly convincing performance and even put on a stonking 20 pounds and came up with own wardrobe to portray his character. The majority of the rest of the cast in this independent underground movie is the weak link here though. The interactions between Allen and his co-workers suffer from the inexperienced (not lacking talent) actors unable to convey emotions believably and this is a problem when it comes to the scenes between Allen and Denise (Gibb), as it is a main part of the story serving as a narrative thrust. This is where the film is at its weakest. However, due to the low-budget nature of this production shot in just 19 days this is to be expected really and is not a major distraction from what is overall a finely made little indie flick as the writer and the director focus entirely on Allen in this character study of a demented psychopath. There is a notable exception in the supporting cast with Michael Brecher giving a memorable performance improvising much of his dialogue playing Allen’s annoying unlikable neighbour Bill who is unbearably unpleasant an insane loudmouth cocaine addicted homophobic racist.
‘7th Day’ is not perfect but it is an admirable gritty solid effort that is very effective in presenting a powerfully harrowing deeply unsettling portrait of a believable monster a human one steeped in a grounded realism that borders on a surrealistic nature with extremely sordid displays of subhuman depravity making for engrossing viewing in shocking cinema.
*** out of ****
Dave J. Wilson
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