7 Days Review
Blood! Torture! Violence! Chopping! Hacking! Bone-snapping! Depravity! Surgery! The cover of gruelling French revenge shocker, 7 Days (adapted from the novel Les sept jours du talion by Patrick Senécal) has such implied screams leaping off of the surface; not in so many words, granted, yet the blood-spattered imagery and depressingly predictable ‘Saw’ comparisons (making Saw ‘look like kids’ stuff’, apparently) would lead one to believe that Daniel Grou’s agonising tale of parental loss and vengeance is another entry pushing into the long line of cynical torture products which continue to be spewed out with unabated momentum.
Yet Grou’s analysis of the devastating impact of the loss of a child at the hands of a predatory abuser most graphically illustrates the slow torture of the grieving parents, and their differing coping mechanisms in the direct aftermath of this most traumatising of atrocities. In positioning Doctor Bruno Hamel, the broken father desperate for vengeance, in direct contrast to detective Hervé Mercure, an anxiety and grief riddled shell of a man dealing with the cruel loss of his wife using contrasting means of coping, this dark movie constructs a set of dynamics that makes the picture a compelling, challenging, and provocative watch.
That the monstrous abuser of this carefully delivered film is vile and disgusting, there can be no doubt. Stealing the innocence, and ultimately the life of the Hamels’ little girl, the grinning and unrepentant Lemaire garners no sympathy as his tortured ordeal commences. The pain inflicted upon the verminous predator is brutal, extreme, and delightfully targeted, and we smile with Hamel as the Doctor hoists his deserving victim up by the neck, barely able to touch the floor, scrabbling for a foothold to prevent asphyxiation as the Doctor leaves him alone, screaming pathetically, in the filthy, murky room.
Yet, as the days roll on, as the torture becomes more extreme, and as we are reminded of the depressing cyclical nature of abuse and abuser, we begin to question our uncomfortable joy at the torturing of the monster. Is the vengeance bringing peace to the Doctor? Does it deliver him some respite from the sheer hell of his existence? Does it secure him any of the closure he craves? Does it bring back his innocent little girl? And, does sinking to the level of the disgusting abuser ever really cancel the depths of despair and anger he feels for the loss of his child?
The technical framework within which these questions are asked is excellently constructed. The camera regularly glides with smooth and steady precision to perfectly frame its subjects. The shot of Hamel closing the front door, for instance, is superbly done; after doing so, the camera drifts upwards to a window above to track little Jasmine silently trotting up the road to deliver her Birthday invitations. It’s a beautifully shot but ultimately fateful moment, and when the panicked couple later realise that Jasmine has gone missing, and the desperate accusations begin to erupt, we watch through a small gap in the door, out of focus, afraid to pry too closely into this most private and unsettling of conversations.
On the surface, 7 Days is an unblinking document of the graphic torture of a cretinous and cowardly monster. Labelling Grou’s effort with the torture moniker is too simplistic though; this quite literally dark and unremittingly disturbing piece presents a clever set of dynamics amongst its three main victims (Hamel, his wife, and Detective Hervé Mercure), and the contrast between their methods of mental survival provokes some important questions, prompting you to examine the foundation of your own value base. It’s a tough and uncompromising watch, and the full force of the blow dealt by the brutal depiction of the loss of the child will mean that this film is simply too much for many to bear. Yet if you can cope with the almost complete absence of light, and the disgusting taunts of the movie’s hate figure, you’ll discover a work that is beautifully shot, technically excellent, and that raises some tough questions about the nature of vengeance and revenge.
This grim and gruelling story is presented in impressive fashion with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, doing full justice in particular to the wide shots of the beautifully captured forest. The definition, whilst a little grainy in places, is generally very good. Colours are naturally muted, as the movie is shot with a blue-green/grey hue, lending the picture the appropriate sensation of solemnity in the characters’ dark and grief-stricken world. There are some occasional issues with colour, particularly concerning Doctor Hamel, where green tones appear briefly across parts of his face.
The disc is encoded for region 2. English subtitles are included, which are sensibly sized, although the positioning does feel a little low. The translation is credible and lacks spelling or grammatical errors.
There’s a cool trailer for Rec 2, a not so cool trailer for much maligned slick torture flick The Tortured (which shares remarkable similarities to this picture), and a trailer for the fun Icelandic watery horror, Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre.
You have the option of watching the movie with either the French Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 soundtrack, or 5.1 surround. Both deliver a clear, clean reproduction without distortion. What’s particularly noticeable about the film is that it does not contain a musical score; an intelligent decision given the gravity of the subject matter. The 5.1 soundtrack uses some subtle surround sound, with the rear speakers providing background sounds such as the passing of traffic. The film rightly takes its subject matter very seriously, and as such there are no tricks or gimmicks, just accurate audio reproduction.
For such a challenging main feature, it’s a shame to report that there are no extras on offer here, save for a trailer for the film itself.
Modern French horror can be exhilarating, creative, and provocative, and, with its focus on the very human side of the traumatic and the horrific, the sum total is often a product that is extremely disturbing. 7 Days takes the most horrific of all human behaviour, and demonstrates the emotional fallout that erupts as a result, producing a picture that is distressing to the extreme. As such, the film becomes the very antithesis of feelgood, stimulating your anger, and challenging your resultant need for revenge, and vengeance. It’s a film which forces you to question these instinctive emotions, yet it proves such a distressing watch as the child is lost, that it proves difficult - particularly with no extras to provide analysis or some respite from the utterly immersive quality of the picture - to lend the intelligent and measured 7 Days an unequivocal recommendation.