I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, that’s a very long title!”. Well, get this: the real title of this movie, the one you can find it under on IMDb, is Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss by Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh. To tell you the truth, I find the title equally funny and annoying (bear this in mind for later on in the review).
As far as release date goes, Seven Stages (I refuse to write down the entire title again) screened at two American film festivals in 2018 but was released to the public on March 6th on digital, so I do consider it as a new movie. This is the first feature-length film directed by Vivieno Caldinelli, a director who works mostly in television (TV shows and TV-made flicks) and, in line with his body of work, it’s a horror-comedy where humour takes central stage at the expenses of the horror element.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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My review is also available on IMDb – Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss (2018)
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Seven Stages of story and characters
The story of Seven Stages is simple, but it’s got an immediate hook: Claire (Kate Micucci) and Paul (Sam Huntington) are a small-town young couple who just moved to Los Angeles, where they found an incredibly cheap apartment to rent. Soon, however, they find out the reason why they got such a great deal on the apartment: members of the sect of the Holy Storsh (played by Taika Waititi) sneak into the apartment to commit suicide in the couple’s bathtub in order to join Storsh in the afterlife and achieve eternal bliss, as the title suggests.
The premise is strong and filled with potential, both on the horror side and from a comedic perspective. On top of that, Seven Stages clumsily focuses on the relationship between Claire and Paul, which could’ve added some depth if done right. Yet, this movie benefits from a good cast, filled with familiar comedians that have proven themselves to be very funny: Taika Waititi is a hoot (as well as being an excellent filmmaker), Kate Micucci has that quirky/funny approach that can work in certain contexts, Dan Harmon (who plays Detective Cartwright) is an extremely likeable comedy actor in plenty of TV shows, and so on.
Seven Stages of a big mess
The problem, here, is the execution. Despite the immense potential for dark comedy, but there are very few scenes in which jokes aren’t delivered at peak hysteria, not to mention rapid-fire speed. This kind of loud comedy, filled with loads of screaming and yelling can work for some, but to me it’s used only to cover the fact that barely any of the jokes is funny. In fact, I think I laughed only three times during the whole movie and these laughs came from Dan Harmon’s characters and his deadpan delivery of absurd lines of dialogue. There is something inherently hilarious in a character that doesn’t flinch in front of such a crazy situation: he just routinely shows up to clean up the mess left behind by these suicidal crazies without making a fuss.
The detective’s character is, however, completely out of place when paired with the other characters: Claire and Paul are extremely unlikeable with their constant screaming and obnoxious personalities; Taika Waititi’s wackiness is utterly wasted and comes off as pure, unadulterated dullness; every other minor character is there as a pawn to deliver silly jokes that come off as irritably unfunny.
Horror and drama buried underneath cringey comedy
Seven Stages bounces around in desperate search of humour, which is nowhere to be found, and in its place is only incident after incident characterised by repetitiveness and accompanied by dull remakes that get old after around 30 minutes.
Worst of all, the poor attempts at comedy completely overshadow the horror and drama of this picture. In terms of horror, Seven Stages feels very tame and held back, as the suicides never go into violent or gory territories; when it comes to drama, the relationship between Claire and Paul could’ve been truly bitter-sweet and compelling, but it’s glossed over as part of the joke, which makes it completely unnecessary and unfulfilling.
Seven Stages feels like an unfinished and unpolished product, which could’ve used many more rewrites in the screenwriting phase. The movie is all over the place, messy and very annoying at times. As I was saying at the beginning of this review while speaking of the title, Seven Stages is equally funny and annoying in a rather frustrating way.
Despite its many flaws, this film is competently directed and has its moments, so if you really like horror-comedies you could check it out. Watching it wasn’t a completely dreadful experience, but the movie feels largely like wasted potential and a forgettable experience.
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