I did not have high hopes for The Seventh Day (2021; Redbox, or for rent on streaming services), but I had a free Redbox rental, so I took a chance. I mean, it has Guy Pearce, Stephen Lang, and Keith David in it; how bad could it be? And it’s not horrible. The effects are high-end, and overall it looks pretty good. After the opening scene, you know it was pitched as Training Day, except with exorcists. Superficially, some shots feel a little like the first season of True Detective, with Guy Pearce standing in for Matthew McConaughey’s character.
Some of the acting fell flat for me, but I can overlook that if the story is strong enough. Unfortunately, the twist at the end is telegraphed for miles, and the theme of corruption in the Roman Catholic Church is pretty transparent. While the movie tries to do something new with exorcism movies, laying possession over the sexual abuse scandals of the Roman church, it doesn’t quite succeed. (The worst part of the movie might be the velcro alb that the priest wears during the exorcism. At least get a cassock and surplice!)
I will say, in its favor, that I kept watching, and I was interested in how Father Daniel (Vadhir Derbez) was going to escape the trap into which he was walking. And I actually think that a sequel might have the possibility of entering new territory, because the ending is set up in such a way that he might turn into “Father Daniel, Demon Hunter.” If the right action and humor notes could be hit, it has possibility.
The Seventh Day does touch on some interesting themes, however, that intrigued me, even if the movie itself didn’t reach its potential. The conviction that demons are real, that evil exists, and that evil exists in places and people where we might not otherwise expect it is something that is not emphasized enough. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) or, in Bob Dylan’s paraphrase (predicting the theme of this movie), “Could be the Führer/Could be the local priest/Sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.”
Alongside that idea is the main theme, that where evil and corruption ought least to be is where they seem to flourish the most. The weakest and most vulnerable ought to find their protection and safety, above all, in the Church. And that makes the failures of those within the Church all the more grievous. It is no longer only the horrible physical or mental damage done, but the possible eternal consequences.
While such things should never happen within God’s Church, it is not surprising that the devil would attack at exactly the places where he can most easily undermine faith and trust and peace. The Seventh Day revolves around the reality that if the devil can capture and use the priests or pastors of the Church for his own ends and purposes—though we have the promise that he cannot ultimately prevail—he can destroy the very place that is supposed to be a refuge for the hurting and the abused.
I would give the movie a C+ for effort, but it doesn’t really bring anything new, either to exorcism stories, or to examining corruption.