Judge Gordon Sullivan thinks this is at least Se7en below an average movie.
Evil has found a new home.
You would think any film that opens with the comeuppance a guy brazen enough to have sex with his mistress upstairs from his wife would have something to offer film fans. Between the sex and the violence, there's a decent hook buried somewhere in a scene that begins "100 years ago," as 7 Below does. Combine that with star turns from Val Kilmer and Ving Rhames, and lots of viewer hopes are raised in the first few minutes of this flick. Sadly, unless you dream of a mediocre ghost story where the stars embarrass themselves, 7 Below will almost certainly disappoint.
7 Below opens 100 years ago, as we see a philandering husband get confronted by his wife before gruesome things happen in the house. Then, it's 100 years later, and a bus full of people are heading to vacation. Of course they get into an accident, and a not-so-kindly stranger (Ving Rhames) suggests they wait out the approaching storm at his house. Which just happens to be the house where the gruesome things happened 100 years ago.
Though it was painful, I sat through all of 7 Below. It took me a long time to figure out why it was so horrible. No, that's not quite true, I can easily pinpoint why it's horrible (and I'll get to that in a moment). What I couldn't quite figure out was why the particular horribleness of 7 Below made me feel worse than the usual run-of-the-mill direct-to-DVD flick. The answer, I think, is the presence of Ving Rhames and Val Kilmer, two guys who know how to act and have been in the business long enough to know better than to be in a movie like 7 Below. What's really strange about their presence is that both men (and the rest of the cast, to be fair) take the film seriously. They give solid performances of a script that is full of so many awful moments that I'm amazed anyone would greenlight it. 7 Below is worth skipping just to avoid Rhames and Kilmer embarrassing themselves with material that is beneath them. At least if they appeared in a high school play, they'd get some props for charity.
What, you might be wondering, is so bad about 7 Below. Let's start with the basic story. I don't want to give too much away for the three or four people who might genuinely enjoy this flick, but it's pretty obvious from the tagline and poster art that this is going to be some kind of ghost or haunted house story. That's close enough to the truth, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. However, 7 Below unfolds with absolutely no attention to logic or sense. For instance, the bus holding our protagonists mysteriously crashes (because, as with many horror films, a lone woman appears in the middle of the road causing the driver to swerve). Ving Rhames appears and tells them they can't go back to the gas station they'd just left because of a storm. That sounds logical, except the storm hasn't really been mentioned before, there's no rain, no wind, and no dark sky or clouds. Only the fact that the screen is darker than it should be (a trend that continues for the whole film) indicates that there's a "storm" around.
That kind of thinking pervades the film. There's a "mystery"—i.e., what the heck is going on, especially once people start dying—but it's pretty obvious what's happening as soon as the group gets to the house (if not before, if audience members tip to the whole "a storm is coming" nonsense when Ving Rhames shows up). After that, it's a slow slog as character after character is killed off in the most banal ways. The occasional creepy ghost-thing will show up, but by the time the mystery was revealed, I could not have cared less. Ving Rhames has the honor of spouting some nonsense to "explain" everything, but otherwise it's a totally unsatisfying ending.
In the film's defense, this DVD is okay. The 1.78:1 transfer is a bit dark, but I suspect that's on purpose (to tell us there's a storm coming!). Otherwise, colors are spot on and detail is strong enough for a standard-def effort. The 5.1 surround track spends most of its energy on the center channel dialogue, with a bit of action in the surrounds during the more atmospheric moments. The only extra is the film's trailer.
It's a movie that sits in that awkward zone for genre films where it's not good enough to be a satisfying guilty pleasure, nor is it bad enough to be funny. Only those who want to feel embarrassed on behalf of the actors should seek out 7 Below.
Evil found the same home, and 7 Below is guilty there, too.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Arc Entertainment
Review content copyright © 2012 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.