The French Canadian film had its world premiere last week at the Sundance Film Festival and starting today it will be available via the Sundance Selects program across a number of cable provider's OnDemand platforms. And while saying 7 Days got under the skin of a hardened horror movie fan sounds like the highest of compliments, I hesitate to consider that grounds for recommendation. Yes, it is difficult to watch. Yes, it is disturbing. Yes, it is made with the utmost craft. Yet I feel it prudent to point out that, while those are qualities we all can agree define a good horror movie, this is absolutely a film not for everyone.
On the surface, it's the story of a doctor who uses a cabin in the woods to methodically exact revenge on the man the police have accused of raping and murdering his eight-year old daughter. But beyond the torture is a harrowing journey into what happens to otherwise healthy relationships when they're sundered by the unimaginable. This isn't a tale of revenge in the Death Sentence tradition. This is an unflinching magnifying glass on what it means to lose everything. It spends as much time lingering on the physical torture as it does the mental; a combination that often times becomes almost unbearable to watch.
Have you ever seen a news story about death in which the newscaster looks noticeably disturbed by what they're about to put on airwaves? Normally, they have a somber face and preface it with an obligatory "What you are about to see may be disturbing", but every now and then the story goes beyond what's normal and the newscaster's face takes on an earnest sorrow. What you are about to see is extremely graphic.
The title 7 Days is drawn from how long Bruno Hamel (Claude Legault) uses his medical expertise to keep the accused's (Martin Dubreuil) body alive while he inflicts excruciating torment on the man's entire being. The torture sequences are so realistic that the only way to express how effective they are is to tell you that I now firmly believe I know exactly what it looks like when a naked, bound, broken man is whipped with steel chains. The makeup effects are as uncanny as the performances they're in service to. As far as my brain is concerned, Martin Dubreuil was actually whipped with steel chains (and so much more) by a rage filled father in Canada and they're just so happened to be a film crew present when it went all went unmercifully down.
Though it is a remarkably effective experience thanks to outstanding performances all around, the film as a whole is deeply unsatisfying. I realize that sounds strange. Of course, watching people get tortured for nearly two hours isn't supposed to put a smile on your face. The problem with 7 Days is that its pain brings no moments of clarity or revelation for the audience. This is an examination of one man's story, beyond that it provides no particular insights into rape, murder, torturer, or loss.
Then again, that may be the intention. All of those things aren't supposed to make sense. One minute life is normal, then it's not, and our brains go to dark places trying to manifest why it all went so horribly wrong. Simply presenting one man's attempt at brutal catharsis is not the same thing as examining the need for catharsis; which is why it's hard to recommend anyone sign themselves up for two hours of relentless depression whose main lesson on offer is "life sucks". But, if you're willing to put yourself through hell, 7 Days is an expert tour guide.