Studio: Virgil Films
Director: Teddy Schenck
Writer: Teddy Schenck
Producer: Matthew H. Wiesner, Teddy Schenck, Marco Franzoni
Stars: Brendan Sexton III, James Russo, Armando Riesco, Antonella Lentini, Natasha Lyonne, John Savage, Florencia Lozano
The lines of reality blur for a distraught man who takes up residency in a strange New York apartment building.
For a film to be an engaging mood piece, it has to actually convey a discernible mood. As opposed to disturbing, uncomfortable, or hypnotic, the mood of “7E” is best described as uncertain, confusing, and outright uninteresting.
“7E” uses an arty tone to look like it has a deeper meaning behind its wandering narrative, but the material is too vague in its intentions to come across as fully spellbinding. Writer/director Teddy Schenck wants to evoke the magnetic darkness of David Lynch symbolism and Roman Polanski atmosphere, yet that is an ambition exceeding the film’s grasp.
“7E” might be considered a character study if it were able to clarify what it is supposedly studying. The silent brooding of the primary players, high contrast cinematography with time-lapse skylines, and jazzy drumbeats of an offbeat score point to having designs on hipster appeal as a psychological thriller best served for audience interpretation. But “7E” never follows these broad strokes with authentic story development that might let someone other than the cast in on the director’s vision.
Clyde is a scruffy screw-up with more stubble than sense and a reputation for being a disappointment. His uncle tasks Clyde with looking in on cousin Kate as she recovers from the shock of finding her roommate’s dead body. Himself coping with a different mysterious death, Clyde enters apartment 7E and by extension a strange world of damaged people yearning to make human connections while simultaneously struggling with an inability to do so.
Promotional sound bites wish to sell “7E” as a thriller in the vein of “Rosemary’s Baby,” which is a completely false lead. Brief alternate reality flashes bridge several scenes, although nothing else about the movie conveys anything supernatural, dreadful, or truly horrific. In Schenck’s possible defense, positioning the movie as occupying a realm of haunting suspense may have been a goal of Marketing rather than of his.
In fact, “7E” might have worked better as a straight dramatic portrait of blue-collar burnouts dealing with internal heartache, devastating loss, and broken trust. What “7E” excels at is portraying average people in wife-beaters and denim shirts confined to an oppressively average world of dirty doors and peeling paint. What “7E” lacks is a true sense of foreboding fear, real bonding with the characters, and a story with quantifiable purpose.
Not to be overlooked in the miasma of unfulfilled potential is a noteworthy performance from Brendan Sexton III. Sexton melts naturally into the role of a chain-smoking slacker fighting hard to keep a sweaty lid on frustration bubbling from the ongoing failure of a troubled daily life. The script, the director, or perhaps Sexton himself is to blame for a few too many doses of deliberate Mamet-style line repetition, otherwise the acting is rock solid. Like the movie, however, there is not enough to it to balance the paltry sum of its lesser parts.
More depressing than it is ever eerie, “7E” depicts a dreary world of incestuous relationships spawned from desperation and fragile ties to others birthed for the same reason. Maybe it is fitting that Clyde is on a search for something he is not sure of for reasons just as hazy. “I don’t know” is his response when questioned about his interest in a suspicious murder concurrently vexing and perplexing his ennui. “7E” is equally unsure about its own path and purpose, and has just as much of an empty answer in response to the question of its ultimate justification.
Review Score: 30