Movie Review: Priests Pearce, Keith David and Stephen Lang face Satan in “The Seventh Day”

A sparkling supporting cast can’t save “The Seventh Day,” a tepid exorcism thriller that begins with promise and dies pretty much the moment the “lead” steps into the spotlight.

It’s got Keith David as a stalwart priest trying to save a possessed child in 1995 Baltimore while Pope John Paul speaks to the multitudes of the city just down the street.

There’s Guy Pearce as “the best exorcist” in the Church at a time when “the Church simply walked away” from the Hollywood-sensationalized Catholic practice. And Stephen Lang is the archbishop pep-talking our “young recruit, the best in his class” and lending gravitas to this latest thriller built on an ancient rite.

But that support and some half-decent effects don’t make this formulaic flop scary, tense or the least bit credible. If the lead doesn’t buy in and seem horrified at witnessing the supernatural and the terrifying for the first time, why should we?

So the presence — or lack thereof — of Vadhir Derbez as the young exorcist in training Father Daniel is instructive in one way only. Movie business nepotism isn’t just a Hollywood thing. It happens in Mexico (He’s Eugenio Derbez’s kid) too.

Not to lay this dog wholly at his feet, but Derbez seems to physcially shrink in his scenes with grizzled badass Pearce. As they share most of their scenes, well that’s a problem.

Another boy (Brady Jenness ) is possessed, the Church thinks. He’s gone nuts with an axe on his family and he’s in custody, awaiting a psyche evaluation. But before Father Daniel can join the team to save him, he’s got to pass muster with the chain-smoking, foul-mouthed Father Peter (Pearce). And Peter’s not impressed that Daniel did “two grueling weeks of exorcist nursery school.”

He tests the recruit by dragging him to a homeless camp and challenging him to “find evil” there.

“An exorcist doesn’t hide from evil. He runs TOWARD it, feels (evil) in his bones and can sense when it’s close.”

They meet the boy, question him and set out to contact-trace little Charlie’s disease, figure out where he caught the Devil’s Flu.

But mainly, this is just Derbez underreacting to everything, struggling to hold his own with better actors and generally killing any reason we should care about what we are supposed to invest in about this story.

The “trainee” business is promising enough, but “The Seventh Day” seems to give away the fact that it had its biggest names on set for very short periods. Derbez’s Daniel goes into many situations on his own, with limited screen time for Pearce.

There’s one fairly chilling kid interrogation scene — a floating boy, a pencil levitated into a weapon, cops lured into the interrogation room only to be attacked by a “presence.

Writer-director Justin Lange made a bit of a splash with “The Dark” a couple of years back. This come-down has plotting problems and lifeless scenes and the hoariest gimmick in the history of demonic possession cinema.

And Lange is the guy who hired a big Mexican star’s kid as his lead.

The failures pile up quickly after that promising first act and “The Seventh Day” doesn’t hold the interest past day two.

MPA Rating: R (Disturbing Images|Violent Content|Some Language)

Cast: Guy Pearce, Vadhir Derbez, Robin Bartlett, Brady Jenness, Stephen Lang and Keith David

Credits: Scripted and directed by Justin P. Lange. A Vertical release.

Running time: 1:27

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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