Torture porn is not just for American audiences any more. If you’ve been wondering why there aren’t more Hostel sequels and longing for the days when there was a brutal horror flick like Wolf Creek in theaters nearly every week, Sundance Selects has a gratuitously grotesque slice of absolute torture for you now available, as the French Canadian 7 Days (the French title is Les 7 jours du talion) simultaneously premieres On Demand at the same time as it’s debuting in Park City at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Perhaps not quite torture porn but undeniably torture drama, 7 Days is one of the most gut-wrenching and disgusting things you could order On Demand all year outside of the latest American Pie Presents comedy. Having said that, it’s far more accomplished than similar mainstream junk like Law Abiding Citizen, another film where a man’s desire for revenge turns him into a maniac, and its director displays a confident visual style that hints at great things to come. 7 Days often mistakes ugly for gritty and gratuitous for dark,
but there are elements of the film that undeniably work and it could
find a horror fan following with enough word of mouth.
From a screenplay by Patrick Senecal based on his best-selling book, 7 Days opens by defining the wounds of the two characters that will drive the film. A police officer (Remy Girard) watches store security tape as his wife is killed by a robber for a measly $58. An eight-year-old girl goes to school and never makes it there. Her body is found, having been brutally raped and murdered. It’s not long before the girl’s murderer (Martin Dubreuil) is arrested but her father, a doctor (Claude Legault), cannot handle – not just the fact that he might only get 15 to 25 years in jail but – that he’s even taking a breath. He snaps. He rents a house, hires someone to build a torture contraption, and kidnaps the prisoner while he’s being transported. For the next seven days, he makes the Jigsaw Killer from Saw look like a nice guy. He starts by taking a sledgehammer to the naked man’s knee and then hanging him from the ceiling by his hands so he’ll have to put pressure on it. And that’s day ONE. Day two involves a shotgun. From there, it gets much, much, much worse. Let’s just say that it’s not for nothing that the man is a doctor and knows his way around surgical tools. Throughout the film, the doctor plays a game with the police, calling home and asking his wife what torture he should perform next and dodging the one officer who may be able to rationalize with him considering he knows the pain of unexpected, tragic loss.
7 Days sets up its gratuitous style from the very beginning. We don’t just see blood on the dead girl’s leg; we have to also see a shot of her skirt and the panties around her ankle. We get it. And then director Daniel Grou lingers over the poor child’s face, open eyes and all before his credit title card. It’s an announcement: This is not for the faint of heart or stomach; and it’s not a mystery. We know who killed the girl and who kidnapped him in return. The only mystery is how each brutal day can top the one that came before. The police seem to be closing in a bit, but like a lot of films of this nature, they almost seem like the enemy in that the film doesn’t work if the anti-hero doesn’t complete his torture. After all, it’s not called “4.5 days.”
Grou may be gratuitous but he finds a brutal realism in some of his emotional beats that so many American horror directors miss completely, if they even try. Legault has the demanding task of making his emotional devastation believable enough that he would tie up a grown man and beat him to death over the course of a week. He actually sells it, thanks in part to Grou’s long takes and relentless, unsparing style. That relentlessness can go a step or two too far and I think there’s a stronger version of 7 Days that’s toned a bit. Yet every time I was tempted to write it off as nothing more than extremism, Girard or Legault would find a way to connect, making this painfully dark film more resonant than it easily could have been. 7 Days is definitely for horror nuts only but Grou shows enough potential that his next film could break out of that niche or at least hit a more definite home run within it.
Rating: TWO AND A HALF BONES
Reviewed by Brian Tallerico (MovieRetriever.com Film Critic)
Release Date: January 22nd, 2010 (On Demand, simultaneous with its debut at the Sundance Film Festival)
Starring: Remy Girard, Claude Legault, and Martin Dubreuil
Director: Daniel Grou
Writer: Patrick Senecal