As a horror journalist, I don’t expect, nor do I need, thanks. Writing about horror is often a pretty thankless job, and that’s fine, because I love doing it. I always want my readers to take my words with a grain of salt, but every once in a while, a film comes along that is so awful, so excruciating to sit through, that I feel it is my job, no, my duty, to warn fans to stay as far away from it as possible. Recently dumped on Netflix from Blumhouse, Seven in Heaven is one of those films…
…Written/directed by Chris Eigerman, Seven in Heaven finds Jude (Travis Tope) at a party, where he is forced to spend “seven minutes in heaven” with June (Haley Ramm). Do teens even still play that game? We were all just getting high and grinding on each other in my time, but what do I know. Anyway, “weird kid” Jude and June find that, after they’re seven minutes of staring at each other are up, they’ve wound up in an alternate reality where teens listen to heavy metal and some people aren’t nice like they are in the real world. Scary.
Seriously, if you haven’t already come to this realization, I think it’s safe to say that from now on, if a film is a surprise drop on Netflix, we can all probably safely assume it’s crap. Between this and Cloverfield: Paradox, both from highly respected genre companies, it’s obvious now that Netflix has become the dollar movie bin of streaming services. I’ll pray for you Netflix. At least you still do good, original content.
But back to Seven in Heaven, I’m very concerned for Eigeman. I worry about anyone who thinks heavy metal and friends being mad at you are the epitome of horror. I mean, just imagine Eigeman walking down Hollywood boulevard on a Saturday night. The terror he must feel, seeing all those porn shops and youths smoking weed. I’m kidding of course, no one walks along Hollywood boulevard anymore except tourists. Some of you can argue but Matt, this film clearly isn’t horror, it’s more a dark sci-fi fantasy. Well, tell that to the filmmakers, because Seven in Heaven is listed as horror on every platform. Okay, okay, I’ll admit, there are scarier events in the film than kids jamming to heavy metal, but not by much. Other than a strange game of “truth or truth” at the end of the film, most of the tension simply comes from the fact that Jude and June are no longer liked by their friends, all of whom are accusing them of a crime that we never see on screen, and never happened. And how does Eigeman go about proving to us that this is horror? Why, with cheesy stinger sound effects every time a kid flinches at Jude as if they’re going to hit him! Ah, I have to stop. It’s too easy.
But I won’t. This film is like the “scary” version of Hot Tub Time Machine, only with a closet and absolutely zero entertainment value. I don’t mean to tear down Eigeman, we should always appreciate the time and effort of filmmakers, but my god, Eigeman’s age is showing in Seven in Heaven. The actions of teenagers which may have been viewed as unnerving at one point are, unfortunate or not, common place and widely accepted these days. There is a distinct lack of connection to youth culture and what scares them which stinks up the film like a fish hidden behind the rim of a tire. It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly where that stench is coming from, but it’s there, and its horribly pungent.
Speaking of a disconnection from the modern world, how about a completely unnecessary subplot involving cops trying to shut down the party Jude and June were attending? Yes, that’s right, while “the Js” are off in a slightly worse reality, Jude’s friend Kent (Dylan Everett) is dealing with the cops, in a mighty boring standoff that we come back to whenever Eigeman needs a break from the A story. Kent does things like instruct his fellow partygoers to stay quiet, don’t leave the house because the cops can’t come in without a warrant, etc. Oh, but the cops have a plan B. They’ve called parents to come hang out outside the house with them and constantly tell their kids to come out! Please, I can’t take all of this excitement. I’ve seen a lot of bad films, but this B plot may be one of the worst, most ridiculous ones I’ve ever seen, at least this year. And I’ve seen the A plot of this film. It is so beyond unintentionally laughable, that I can only imagine Eigeman threw it in there as extra filler for a film that already seems to go on forever.
Back to the A plot though, what is so frustrating isn’t necessarily what’s happening, but why. There simply is no strong thematic reason for why Jude is experiencing any of this. We get the sense that Jude has family issues, and is not well liked at school, but to me, he seems like a perfectly normal kid with friends who care about him and a girlfriend (Clark Backo) that loves him. Eigeman presents Jude as a character whose biggest flaw is being different from others. That’s it. So when Jude then embarks on this “terrifying” journey where all of his “worst fears” over his relationships come to fruition, well, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point. Jude doesn’t appear to be in need of a revelation. Much stronger films that deal with similar themes, such as The Butterfly Effect, present us with a character, Ashton Kutcher, who is consistently forced into facing the consequences of his poor decisions. Jude on the other hand? We’re not given anything psychological to pry into with him. Instead, Jude proceeds to make shitty decisions which betray his friends and girlfriend back in the real world, with ZERO consequences. In fact, you could argue that because of some of these decisions, Jude is an extremely inconsistent character without much motivation behind a lot of his choices. That doesn’t make for good, engaging storytelling, horror fam.
As for how Jude and the forgettable June end up in this topsy-turvy “hell-scape”? Well, Eigeman hardly takes the time to develop anything else going in the story, so why should we expect any clarification? We do get a brief line of explanation from the bizarro version of Jude’s counselor, Wallace (Gary Cole). The answer hardly makes a lick of sense though, and is just one of many depressing moments where a quality actor like Cole is being wasted for pure exposition and nothing more. In some ways he’s like the various ghosts showing up to torment Scrooge, only in this case, his only purpose is to offer a vague hint towards what Jude should do next and then drive off into the night, on his way to a late-night booty call, or to pick up his next Lyft ride. There has to be SOME reason he’s driving around all night, right? Oh, and did I not mention that Jude is almost entirely a stagnant protagonist who only figures out what to do next when Cole shows up to tell him? That’s okay, you’ve probably already decided you’re not going to watch Seven in Heaven and have stopped reading this, but if you are still reading, well then aren’t you a little masochist.
Look, I take this self-proclaimed job seriously, and will always try to find something positive to say about a film, because having worked on films myself, I know how hard Eigeman and everyone involved worked on this film, and there is almost always something to appreciate. But I can’t. Not this time. Seven in Heaven isn’t even worth the free Netflix watch, unless mind-numbing boredom is your favorite pastime. So what have we learned, boys and girls? Playing the game Seven Minutes in Heaven? Good. Watching the film Seven in Heaven? Bad. Heavy metal? Scares your parents.
Seven in Heaven is now available for you to suffer through on Netflix.
By Matt Konopka