Featuring Ving Rhames and Val Kilmer in what are possibly the most forgettable roles of their entire respective careers, supernatural isolationist thriller 7 Below is now available on DVD from Arc Entertainment. The movie strives ambitiously to mix up the low-budget “trapped in a scary house” story perennial, but its awkwardly combined serial killer elements and twisty supernatural intrigue undermine each other more forcefully than they augment, and the complicated mess of the movie’s premise fails to distract from the barrenness of its actual plot.
After a bus filled with a small collection of tourists on their way to a secluded retreat spins out and crashes killing its hired driver, the surviving passengers find themselves stranded on the rural outskirts of civilization and are forced to rely on the assistance of a conveniently mysterious, cigar-chomping stranger named Jack (Rhames). The out-of-town cadre includes a bickering married couple (Kilmer and Bonnie Somerville), two brothers recovering from the recent death of their mother, and a professionally disgraced doctor.
Arriving at Jack’s remote country mansion, the group begins to witness a series of bizarre incidents, and at their prodding, Jack reveals that the house was the scene of a decades-old mass murder in which a young child brutally slaughtered his entire family. As the group’s dangerous isolation is further compounded by a series of mounting obstructions to communication or escape (downed phone lines, vehicular sabotage, and an increasingly menacing lightning storm raging outside) people start turning up dead, and the twisted roots of the house’s defining historical incident are further exposed, indicating a vast network of supernatural destruction that threatens to engulf them all.
Despite doing a better-than-average job of establishing its characters initially, 7 Below fails to sustain a convincing mood, and its complicated, genre-bending premise is strenuous, but ineffective. A group of strangers trapped in a remote location is a pretty standard genre trope, and in 7 Below’s defense, it’s hard to put a legitimately fresh spin on a premise that’s already so heavily overplayed. At the end of the night, it’s a movie about people trapped in a house getting slaughtered, and whether the thing killing them is a human, a ghost, a demon, or Bigfoot is irrelevant. As far as gore is concerned, the film gets a solid “meh” rating, with a smattering of slit throats, stabbings, and strangulations, but nothing really ridiculous enough to make it fun.
The DVD pretty much contains nothing other than the movie, which is kind of disappointing, actually, because seeing Val Kilmer talk about his role as a total d*ckface who just sulks and makes abusive comments to people and then lays in bed for a really long time would probably have been funny. If all you want to see is a generic slasher movie, then 7 Below is essentially fine, but the atmospheric elements it tries to incorporate boil down to meaningless padding that distracts from the action and slows down the pace. Aside from the novelty of its freakshow celebrity participation, 7 Below is a basically watchable horror movie, but not really anything special.