Review: ‘The Seventh Day’ (2021), starring Guy Pearce, Vadhir Derbez and Stephen Lang

April 10, 2021

by Carla Hay

Vadhir Derbez, Guy Pearce and Brady Jenness in “The Seventh Day” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“The Seventh Day”

Directed by Justin P. Lange

Culture Representation: Taking place in New Orleans and briefly in Baltimore, the horror film “The Seventh Day” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Latinos, Asians and African Americans) representing Catholic clergy and middle-class citizens.

Culture Clash: Two Catholic priests who hunt demons try to perform an exorcism on a 12-year-old boy who’s accused of murdering his parents and 16-year-old sister. 

Culture Audience: “The Seventh Day” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching dull and mindless horror movies about exorcisms.

Guy Pearce in “The Seventh Day” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

An exorcism patient who’s strapped to a bed probably has more fun than anyone who watches this tedious train wreck of a horror film until the movie’s very ludicrous end. “The Seventh Day” (written and directed by Justin P. Lange) also has an awkward mix of experienced, more talented actors with less-experienced, less-talented actors whose lack of talent further lowers the quality of this already substandard movie. It’s the type of forgettable horror flick that’s heavy on gore but unbearably light on an interesting, well-crafted story.

“The Seventh Day” begins with a flashback to Baltimore on October 8, 1995. A middle-aged priest named Father Louis (played by Keith David) is getting ready to travel somewhere with a priest in his 20s named Father Peter Costello (played by Chris Galust), who is Father Louis’ protégé. The two priests are going to an exorcism in Baltimore on the same day that Pope John Paul II was visiting the city. (The movie includes archival footage of this visit.)

Father Louis says in a voiceover: “It chose today of all days. The Holy Father, a mere stone’s throw away. I suspect that’s no coincidence.” What is the “it” that this priest is talking about? The demon that these priests are hunting, course.

Father Louis then tells Father Peter: “I fear that this one will be different from the others. This one seems to have a purpose.” Too bad this movie doesn’t seem to have a purpose except to badly recycle ideas from other exorcism movies.

And then Father Louis says, “Soon, Peter. I promise. I have complete faith in you.” This is the type of simplistic dialogue that’s littered throughout the movie. Viewers of this dreck will soon lose faith that it will get any better.

Father Louis and Father Peter are overseeing the exorcism of a boy named Nicholas “Nicky” Miller (played by Tristan Riggs), who’s about 12 or 13, with Nicky’s parents (played by Heath Freeman and Hannah Alline) also in attendance. Nicky is strapped to a bed. Because Father Louis is training Father Peter to be an exorcism master, Father Peter is leading this particular exorcism session.

As Father Louis says the Lord’s Prayer, the lights in the room start to flicker. And then little Nicky starts to talk like a man trying to sound like a demon. A possessed Nicky blurts out this insult to Father Peter: “You look lost, you dumb animal! You should find yourself a new shepherd!” Is this demon supposed to be terrifying or is this demon trying out someone’s rejected lines in a stand-up comedy insult act?

It might be bad comedy, not horror, because Nicky then shouts, “Smile like you’ve never done before!” His face (through some cheesy visual effects) then contorts into a bloody grin that would make “It” evil clown villain Pennywise laugh at the absurdity of it all.

All hell then breaks loose. The crucifix necklace around Mrs. Miller’s neck is snatched away by an unseen force quicker than a drag queen can snatch a wig. The crucifix is thrown across the room, right into the jugular veins of Father Louis’ neck. This injury then causes Father Louis to bleed to death, right there in the room, in the time it would take for Pennywise to let out one of his famous giggles. That was quick.

But that’s not all. Nicky’s skin on his arms starts to burn until his whole body bursts into flames. It’s one of the more gruesome scenes in the movie. Meanwhile, the Pope is visiting “a mere stone’s throw away” in Baltimore, and no one in the room bothers to ask, “Where’s the Pope when you need him?”

“The Seventh Day” then fast-forwards to the present day in New Orleans. Father Peter (played by Guy Pearce) is now a jaded, middle-aged clergyman. He’s in a meeting with an unnamed archbishop (played by Stephen Lang), who wants Father Peter to train a young priest named Father Daniel Garcia (played by Vadhir Derbez) to become a master exorcist. Father Daniel is called into the room, not knowing that he’s about to become an exorcist protégé.

As the archbishop explains to Father Daniel, they are part of a small secret society of Catholic clergy who still provide training on how to perform exorcisms. According to the archbishop, the Vatican adopted a negative attitude toward exorcism and stopped teaching exorcism rites. And now, only a “handful, no more than a dozen” Catholic clergy secretly train for and perform exorcisms.

The archbishop tells Father Daniel, “You need to know that Father Peter trained with the very best. And I feel, in my heart, that I’m putting you into the right hands.” The archbishop describes the late Father Louis as the “most revered” exorcist in this secret society. The archbishop, who knows about the botched exorcism that killed Father Louis, conveniently doesn’t tell Father Daniel about this messy tragedy.

The archbishop might feel that he’s putting Father Daniel in the right hands, but Father Peter isn’t as open to the idea of taking on this new trainee. At first, Father Peter is cold and condescending to Father Daniel and treats him more like an altar boy who’s supposed to do errands. At one point in the meeting, Father Peter orders Father Daniel to go across the street to get Father Peter some coffee.

And so begins Father Peter and Father Daniel’s training session, where they travel by car together in search of some pesky demons to expel. It has all the makings of a formulaic movie about a cynical and gruff older cop who’s assigned to mentor/train a naïve and eager-to-please younger cop—except that Father Peter and Father Daniel have crucifixes, not guns, as their weapons.

One of the first things that Father Peter tells Father Daniel is that he doesn’t like wearing a formal clergy uniform because it can intimidate some of the people with whom they interact. Father Peter’s preferred fashion style makes him look more like an angst-filled, scruffy liberal-arts college professor, with a well-worn plaid blazer and a chain-smoking habit as part of that image. It takes a little while for Father Daniel to loosen up in his wardrobe choices, but he eventually starts to wear more casual clothing when he’s with Father Peter, except when they want to use their priesthood to get certain privileges.

As they spend more time together, Father Peter warms up to Father Daniel and opens up a little bit more to Father Daniel about his past. He tells Father Daniel about the horrific exorcism of Nicky Miller and that Nicky burst into flames and died. Father Peter says that he’s still haunted by this tragedy. Meanwhile, Father Daniel won’t tell Father Peter much about himself. When Father Peter asks Father Daniel why he wants to become an exorcist, Father Daniel doesn’t really give an answer.

Before Father Peter and Father Daniel find out about the big exorcism that they have to do in this story, there’s a nonsensical scene of the two priests encountering a demon at a run-down area where homeless people live. They stop in the area, since Father Peter seems to know a homeless charity worker named Helen (played by Robin Bartlett), who is there to distribute some food.

Upon arrival, the two priests see a homeless man named George (played by Acoryé White) chanting out loud while standing over a cylinder garbage can whose contents have been lit on fire. As Father Peter and Father Daniel get closer to the man, Father Daniel brings out a rosary and prays. George reacts as if Father Daniel is the crazy one.

Suddenly, Helen cries out in pain and a wind-like explosion happens that knocks everyone out except for someone who’s become possessed by a demon. (Take a wild guess if it’s George or Helen.) The two priests manage to exorcise the demon in the most mundane and predictable way possible. There’s really nothing terrifying about this scene. Besides, there’s another exorcism in the movie that’s supposed to be scarier but it’s even more ridiculous.

Charlie Giroux (played by Brady Jenness) is a 12-year-old boy who’s going on trial for the murder of his parents and 16-year-old sister. For now, he’s being kept in solitary confinement in a juvenile detention center. And so, Father Peter and Father Daniel naturally want to find out if this boy is possessed by the devil.

They use their status as priests to visit Charlie at the detention center. However, Father Peter thinks Father Daniel should learn how to do these interviews on his own, so Father Peter usually waits outside while Father Daniel talks to Charlie. Thus begins a tiresome and repetitive slog in the movie: Father Daniel does a series of interviews with Charlie, who tells the priest that he keeps having visions of strange men crawling on his chest until he can’t breathe. At one point, Charlie does the inevitable hissing “demon child” attack on Father Daniel, just in case it wasn’t clear that Charlie needs an exorcism.

There are also some distractions to stretch out the already thin plot. Father Daniel suddenly shows that he’s got psychic abilities, so he’s able to vividly see what happened in the Giroux house and what led up to the murders. And so, that leads to scenes of Father Daniel being a ghost-like voyeur in the house, where he spies on some family arguments. It explains the type of relationships that Charlie had with his father (played by Major Dodge), his mother (played by Stephanie Rhodes) and his sister Nellie (played by Evangeline Griffin) before the murders happened.

And there’s a very unnecessary and badly written scene of Father Peter and Father Daniel interviewing some kids, who are around Charlie’s age, at a hangout called Skate City, where the priests and the kids use a ouija board. And somehow, even though these two priests are not psychiatrists or lawyers and have no reason to be involved in Charlie’s murder case, Father Peter and Father Daniel have convinced the cops to let them watch while the police interrogate Charlie.

Longtime actors Pearce, Lang and David have considerable talent that is wasted in this junkpile movie. Fortunately for David, who has the unfortunate role of a priest killed by a crucifix necklace, he isn’t in the movie for very long. Lang has a mediocre supporting role that only gets a few scenes.

Pearce seems to know he’s in a terrible movie and makes an effort to bring some personality to a character that’s written as very hollow. Father David has a much more lackluster personality. Together, Father Peter and Father David are a dreadfully monotonous duo.

This horrendous movie is made worse by Derbez’s wooden acting and Jenness’ hammy over-acting. And because Derbez and Jenness share several scenes together, it makes for a lot of embarrassingly bad moments that are hard to watch. A more effective director should have been able to prevent this clumsy mismatch of actors by making better casting choices.

“The Seventh Day” writer/director Lange makes the same mistakes that a lot of directors of terrible horror movies make: They spend more time on violent mayhem and visual effects (none of which are that good in this film) and neglect the elements of telling a captivating and suspenseful story. The casting in this movie doesn’t work well, and there’s a plot twist which is predictable and obvious to anyone paying attention. It might be hard to pay attention though because “The Seventh Day” is so mind-numbingly boring that it might put people to sleep.

Vertical Entertainment released “The Seventh Day” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on March 26, 2021.

Review: ‘The 420 Movie’ (2020), starring Daniel Baldwin, Kelley Jakle, Lindsey McKeon, Aries Spears, Keith David, Krista Allen and Verne Troyer

April 10, 2020

by Carla Hay

Daniel Baldwin in “The 420 Movie” (Photo courtesy of Sky Republic Productions)

“The 420 Movie” (2020)

Directed by Rob Johnson

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional Humbolt County (not the real-life Humboldt County) in California, the stoner comedy “The 420 Movie” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans) representing the middle-class who are all connected in some way to marijuana.

Culture Clash: A corrupt mayor and his two adult daughters come up with a “get rich quick scheme” to sell high-grade marijuana and electronic marijuana cigarettes to help pay off his debts.

Culture Audience: “The 420 Movie” will appeal primarily to people who want to watch a low-budget, lowbrow pothead comedy that’s also low on humorous content.

Lindsey McKeon and Kelley Jakle in “The 420 Movie” (Photo courtesy of Sky Republic Productions)

“The 420 Movie” starring Daniel Baldwin and directed by Rob Johnson—not to be confused with “The 420 Movie,” the 2009 stoner comedy written by, directed and starring James Blackburn—is as mindless and poorly made as you would expect it to be. But since it’s an obvious stoner comedy, people who are interested in seeing the movie should already what they’re getting into if they decided to end up watching. (“420” is slang for marijuana.) And since many people see stoner comedies in an “altered” state of mind, how much someone thinks this movie is funny might depend on someone’s level of sobriety when watching the film.

Just like a lot of stoner comedies, “The 420 Movie” features potheads trying to get out of a messy situation because of money and/or their drug activities. Baldwin is Edgar J. Hightower, a widowed, marijuana-loving mayor of the fictional Humbolt County, California (not to be confused with the real-life Humboldt County, California), which is a working-class suburban area that’s somewhat rural. How much does he love pot? One of his campaign promises was that he would make marijuana legal in the county if he got elected.

He kept his promise, and marijuana has become a booming business where the mayor lives. The movie shows that many people grow marijuana in their backyards and openly smoke weed in public. This is the kind of movie whose idea of a sight gag is showing an old lady smoking a joint while gardening.

But the mayor has a gambling problem, which has caused him to lose his fortune, and he’s now living in a trailer with his two daughters, who are in their early 20s. Sarcastic brunette Mary (played by Lindsey McKeon) recently left college in New York to come back to Humbolt County and work in her father’s marijuana dispensary shop. Bratty blonde Jane (played by Kelley Jakle), Mary’s young sister, opted not to go to college and instead decided to work in the shop. Their father Edgar has been trying to increase business for the shop and his Hightower Marijuana Farms, by filming a TV ad campaign, which is shown in the beginning of the movie.

To make matters worse for his financial problems, Edgar has embezzled the county’s budget money to fund his addiction to gambling and prostitutes. And he’s also racked up major debts by paying $2 million for a Mexican army to help protect his marijuana business, since he’s not about to limit himself to just selling marijuana legally when there’s more money to be made by selling it illegally. Krista Allen has a supporting role as Edgar’s assistant Ruth, who looks and acts more like a “Real Housewives” trophy wife than someone who’s supposed to work in an office.

The two Hightower sisters have an ongoing sibling rivalry. Jane insists that she’s the “genius of the family,” while Mary disagrees. They often bicker, but they’re able to put teamwork to good use to come up with a possible solution to their father’s money problems. Mary has concocted a liquid THC formula that can be made into different flavors, while Jane has invented an electronic marijuana cigarette. They figure that the combination is bound to make them a lot of money.

The dispensary shop has two young employees who are enlisted to help Mary and Jane test their new product—Boogie (played by John Bain) and Roofie Amy (played by Stacy Danger), who got her nickname for her high physical tolerance for drugs, including not even being fazed by ingesting roofies, also known as “date rape drugs.”

Boogie is leading a double life. He still lives with his parents, who apparently don’t know what he really does for a living. When he leaves home to go to work, he’s dressed in a conservative suit and tie and carries a briefcase as he says goodbye to his parents. But as soon as he’s out of their sight, he changes into hip-hop street gear. And his car has a bumper sticker on it that says “White Republican and Proud,” but he covers it with a bumper sticker that says “Obama” on it when he goes to work. This is what is supposed to be the movie’s idea of “funny.”

Meanwhile, Edgar is feeling the heat from people he owes money to all over the place. One of the people he’s in debt to is Chief Ironweed (played by Keith David), an African American with a tiny percentage of Native American heritage who, by taking Edgar’s corrupt advice, was able to get control of the local Native American casino by playing up his very dubious connection to the Native American community. Edgar has racked up $270,000 in debts to Chief Ironweed’s casino.

Someone else who’s putting pressure on Edgar to pay up is a local gang leader called Tito the Terrible (played by Verne Troyer), who’s always accompanied by two unnamed henchmen. One of the cronies is a wannabe rapper (played by Aaron “Shwayze” Smith) who repeats almost everything Tito says (much to Tito’s annoyance), and the other henchman (played by Lee Larson) is a tattoo-covered goon who is the “strong and silent” type.

Tito and his thugs go to Edgar’s office to demand a cut of not only Edgar’s next 420 crop but also a cut of the marijuana crops of everyone in Humbolt County. The total haul for Tito will be enough to cover the $5 million that Tito wants from Edgar. (Troyer died in 2018, which tells you how long ago this movie was made.)

Mary and Jane eventually find out about their father’s massive debts, and they come up with the idea to rush the marijuana e-cigarette to market. But first, they need to test how strong it is. The movie culminates at a house party where Mary, Jane, Boogie and Roofie Amy go to do the testing, by charging $25 per hit. Also at the party is Mary’s ex-boyfriend Curt (played by Cody Kasch), whom she dumped because he cheated on her with his stepsister. And novelty rapper Riff Raff (playing himself) is at the party too.

“The 420 Movie” was written by Michael Anthony Snowden, who’s best known for working with the Wayans Brothers on 2001’s “Scary Movie 2” and 2004’s “White Chicks.” Just like those other films, “The 420 Movie” isn’t really about having a clever plot, but instead it’s about having a series of gags that are strung together in the hopes that it will resemble a plot. “The 420 Movie” doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the funny jokes (even the “so dumb it’s funny” jokes) are very few and far in between.

Most of the laughs in “The 420 Movie” don’t come from the main characters, but from Aries Spears, who has a supporting role as Patrolman Watkins, an African American cop who practices “reverse racism” by harassing innocent people if they are white. The Patrolman Watkins character is so over-the-top with his foul-mouthed and outrageous actions that Spears essentially steals every scene, even though he’s only in the movie for about 20 minutes.

The Watkins character (who smokes a joint when he pulls over motorists in traffic stops) is such a buffoon that he can’t be taken seriously. The character is obviously a way to poke fun at bigots who use race as a reason to take out their personal frustrations on others. It’s too bad that “The 420 Movie” didn’t feature the Watkins character more because it would’ve resulted in a much funnier film.

Overall, most of the other actors in the movie do a passable but forgettable job in their roles. “The 420 Movie” has some outside meta references in the film that are brief and aren’t very inventive. There’s a scene when Edgar is on the phone, with Mary and Jane in the room, and he says, “I’ve got Uncle Billy, Uncle Alec and Uncle Stephen on hold.” (It’s an obvious reference to Daniel Baldwin’s famous brothers.) And in a scene with Troyer, who’s best known for his Mini Me character in two “Austin Powers” movies, Tito holds up his pinky finger in a crook like the “Austin Powers” character Dr. Evil.

The obviously low budget for “The 420 Movie” was put to good use in casting, hair and makeup, but not put to much good use in cinematography and sound mixing, which are uneven and very amateurish. There’s a scene with Mary and Jane at a swimming pool, and the cutaway editing in the scene has very bad mismatched lighting. There are some noticeable audio problems throughout the movie, and the soundtrack choices (mostly hip-hop) are extremely predictable. As it stands, “The 420 Movie” is not the worst stoner comedy ever made, but if you’re looking for a movie in this genre that’s really worthwhile, there are so many better options, such as “Dazed and Confused” or the first “Friday” movie.

Sky Republic Productions released “The 420 Movie” on digital and VOD on April 7, 2020.

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