Directed by Jason M. Koch with a script from Mark Leake, 7th Day is a brutally dark character study that follows Allen Dean (Mark S. Sanders) through seven days of his life. Allen is a middle-aged man who lives in the house where he grew up and works as a dishwasher at a restaurant while fantasizing about living a life of ‘50s-style bliss with his co-worker Denise, played by Daisy Gibb.
Allen’s off-time is spent stalking, killing, torturing, raping, and all sorts of other repugnant behavior. The reason he takes these actions is made clear to the audience—it’s the only way he can feel like he has any sense of control in his life. One of 7th Day’s greatest accomplishments is a clear explanation of Allen’s motives, while never condoning him, or asking the audience to sympathize with him. I can’t stress strongly enough that Allen does not have a single redeeming quality to him, and this void adds to the audience’s sense of discomfort. Leake’s script develops Allen’s brutal childhood as the motivating factor for his behavior, and while at times it seems to be a mish-mash of vile trauma thrown together, everything that happens to Allen feels real.
Jason Koch’s direction in this low-budget affair is incredible and I’d be very interested to see what he can do with more money and resources. He creates an atmosphere similar to that of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer mixed with Harvey (yes, the old Jimmy Stewart flick) and Donnie Darko. As his camera tracks along with Allen you get the sense that you’re along for the ride with him.
This is not a shaky, handheld-camera affair that seems all too trendy at this point in time. The scenes in which Allen is brutalizing his victims make incredible use of practical effects and Koch’s camera never pulls away nor lingers too long. The first few kills are some of the most gut-wrenching I’ve seen in a very long time. Once the horrible brutality of Allen’s actions is established the film refocuses on his mental state. What may have become a hackneyed shock picture in the hands of a less capable director is clearly trying to do more.
Despite the 80-minute runtime, the film feels a tad long. This would have made a great addition to something like Showtime’s Masters of Horror series. The subplot focusing of Allen’s relationship with a coked-up child molester drags on, partially because it is impossible to give a damn about either of the men. While it’s used as a point of suspense later it doesn’t work because Allen isn’t anything resembling a sympathetic character. In fact nothing I can imagine happening to Allen would have made me wince in the least. As the film builds to the titular 7th Day, Leake’s script successfully plays with audience expectation. While I can’t deny the creativity and purpose of the ending—and while it stays true to the film—I did feel a bit ripped off.
But by and large, 7th Day is a successfully disturbing character study sure to please fans of ultra-indie genre fare.