MRR Movie Review: Seven Below


Movie Review: "Seven Below"

-- Rating: R
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Directed by: Kevin Carraway
Genre: Horror, Thriller

There is something truly frightening about the idea of being trapped in a building with no chance to escape. "Seven Below" hopes to capitalize on that fear by placing familiar faces in the film.

The film introduces a group of men and women who share no connection other than taking the same bus. After the bus crashes, they make their way to an abandoned house, only to learn that something terrible happened there exactly one hundred years ago. At the same time, a massive storm gathers outside, preventing any of the group from escaping.

"Seven Below" suffers from a script that tends to jump around. The film introduces a ghost story before showing signs of a grisly murder, and it quickly becomes clear that the filmmakers didn't know whether they wanted it to be a ghost story or a slasher film. Though these flaws are glaring at times, there are a few scenes that might make viewers jump. Many horror films show someone standing in front of a mirror as the camera pans around to reveal something in the mirror. Even though versions of this scene appear in dozens of films, the one in "Seven Below" will still make a few people jump out of their seats.

Director Kevin Carraway ("Fear Chamber") does his best to create a compelling story on a small budget, but that small budget rears its ugly head in a few scenes. When he shoots scenes outside with the rain pouring down around the characters, it lends a creepy tone to the film, but when he resorts to fog and fake thunder, it drags the film down. Carraway is at his best when he puts the camera on the actors and lets them shine.

The biggest name that fans will recognize is Val Kilmer ("The Doors"). The actor stars as McCormick, who serves as the villain early in the film. Kilmer isn't above chewing the scenery in his over-the-top portrayal of a man who acts like a jerk, even willingly admitting that he cheated on his wife. Though he isn't the best character in the film, it's a little disappointing when he disappears within the first thirty minutes.

Ving Rhames ("Dawn of the Dead") is a little more likeable in his role as Jack. Though the poster makes him look like the bad guy complete with a black hat, he is actually more of an enigma. He welcomes the crash survivors into his home, but he may be hiding a dark secret from them. The film only has a few humorous scenes, and many of those land on the capable shoulders of Rhames. In one of the film's best scenes, he makes a reference to "Top Gun," the film that launched Kilmer's career.

Bonnie Somerville ("Without a Paddle") also appears in the film, playing Brooklyn, the wife of Kilmer's character. The two are believable as a married couple, especially when they fight. The film also introduces two brothers: Adam (Matt Barr, "The House Bunny") and Issac (Luke Goss, "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"). Though the two actors do not look alike, their few exchanges make it easy to believe that they are brothers.

"Seven Below" starts off on a powerful note but doesn't quite succeed in living up to the expectations it creates. Though it tries to reach that initial high, it struggles with some of the middle scenes. The film's opening introduces viewers to the history of the house and the young boy who murdered his family there. It then dives into the main characters and the accident that sends them to the house. The low budget becomes evident once they reach the house, especially when the actors forget that they are supposedly holding newspaper pages and show the blank sides to the camera.

One of the high points in the film comes when the characters finally reveal that they all have troubled pasts. McCormick had an affair and doesn't feel very guilty about it, while his wife can't get past what he did. The two brothers are trying to get on with their lives by spending time together after the death of their father, and one of the other characters who was on the bus, a doctor, is recovering from a drug addiction. These seemingly disparate backstories help explain what happens later.

"Seven Below" probably won't win any awards, but the film still has entertaining moments. Viewers will enjoy watching Kilmer and Rhames play off each other, and many will enjoy the way the ending wraps up the mysteries introduced earlier in the film.

Rating 2 out of 5