Master Gregory is the last living so-called Spook—a specially gifted demon-hunting warrior who defends the land against malevolent magical spirits. Of course, he's lately been trying to remedy that dire deficiency. He's getting a little long in the beard to do all the beastie-bashing himself, so he's actively trying to recruit and train another Spook to replace him by giving him not only all his memories but also his slash-and-hack superskills.
It's easier said than done. For the requirements are many.
The selected boy must be a seventh son of a seventh son, for one. And he must be keen of eye and stable of foot, enough so to make it through years of grueling training. That's a feat none of his trainees have been able to survive thus far, dying off as they do from one form of pestilence or beastly gobbling or another.
After his latest apprentice succumbs to a witch's powers, however, Gregory realizes he must quickly redouble his efforts. He faces his greatest test now that Mother Malkin, a fearsome witch queen, has freed herself from a prison he created for her years before. When the blood moon rises full, the sorceress's powers will be at their height, and she will surely enslave all mankind.
Master Gregory's only hope is young Tom Ward. He's a seventh son who also happens to be the child of a witch—a lineage that endows the boy with visions and otherworldly powers that even an old Spook like Gregory can't fully understand.
The boy must quickly learn the ways of witchcraft, the use of herbs and the basics of swordplay. And by quickly I mean this: Gregory must condense all his many years of experience into a crash course of learning so compact that the lad will be ready for the worst in a scant seven days. (What other number could it be?)
For all of his old-coot-ish grumpiness and self-serving veneer, Gregory is a seasoned battler who knows he must give his all to stop the march of evil. Tom soon takes on that self-sacrificial yoke as well, and he fights diligently by the old man's side. When Mother Malkin and her witchy charges move to destroy a city, Tom's mother knowingly gives her life trying to hold them off. Another witch stands against Malkin, too, and dies attempting to protect her daughter.
Tom's mother tells him, "All you ever need is inside you. Just don't be afraid to look." But that's about as far as the humanist hoorahs go here. The rest are all wrapped up in witches and warlocks who magically shape-shift into gigantic beasties, a wild jungle cat and a sword-swinging multi-armed … creature. Mother Malkin demonstrates her evil ways by eating "bloodcakes" filled with worms, casting spells over a swirling cauldron, and transforming into a skeletal, metal dragon.
"When you deal with dark, dark gets in you," Master Gregory says about the downward spiral of spiritual change in his own life. And that idea is reinforced throughout the pic. Tom, when first faced with the task of killing a warlock, refuses, telling Gregory, "I'm not like you." But by movie's end he readily accepts similarly deadly assignments. It's said that Mother Malkin was once good in her youth, but jealousy and anger drove her to murder and filled her with malevolence.
A 10-year-old girl is possessed by a sorceress. Ghostly phantoms swirl about a ruined castle hall and through a nearby darkened forest. A badly scarred woman is healed with magic. An armored skeleton jumps to life. A dead woman's spirit visits her son. And a talisman stone is used to enhance dark magical powers (that Tom later controls).
Tom has a number of seizure-like visions that give him clues about choices to be made in the future. When he and a young witch named Alice first touch, a blue spark flashes from their fingers, indicating, we're told, that they are destined to be together.
Tom and Alice kiss on several occasions. And one time their passion leads to them lying in bed together (both fully clothed). When Alice skinny-dips, we see her bare shoulders and upper chest. (Rising out of the water, she is magically clothed in a silky gown.) Several witches wear revealingly low-cut dresses.
Deadly thumping, ripping, gouging and gobbling battles (presented as broadly fantastical) fill much of the movie's screen time. The witches and warlocks regularly shape-shift into raging beastie form, sending Tom, Gregory and in one case scores of other humans flying with a smash of their sharp-clawed hands. Characters are impaled, bashed into stone walls and swallowed whole. Witches in dragon form wrap their tails around humans' necks and squeeze the life out of them. Sometimes they impale them through the back. Two dragon witches attack each other, stabbing with their tails and biting with razor-sharp teeth.
Humans fight back with swords, knives, torches and a magical staff that incinerates witches in a ball of flame. A warlock is covered in oil and set ablaze. Tom finds himself perched on the shoulders of a huge troll-like creature as he repeatedly stabs down into the creature's eye and head before they both tumble down a 30-story high waterfall, the beast crashing head-first onto a massive rock below.
A few more up-close clawed encounters result in slashes on Tom's leg, side and chest. We see a bloody gash on Gregory's stomach. A witch in human form has a set of sharp claws shoved up under her chin. Another witch gets a throwing knife lodged in her side before being burned with a blowtorch-like blast.
Drug and Alcohol Content
The first time we meet Master Gregory he's drunk in a tavern where he fights off an attacker with his tankard of mead. Elsewhere, he drinks continually from his flask. While Gregory is showing a number of powerful potions and herbs to Tom, the boy points out the flask and asks, "What does that kill?" "Cowardice," the old Spook replies. Tom later takes a sip of the bitter brew.
There's something really magical about a well-made film. Skilled moviemakers can somehow take the ordinary things we've all seen before and weave action, character and story into an absorbing and immersive bit of art and entertainment.
Sadly, there's not much at all that's magical about Seventh Son—unless you want to talk literally about the dark sorcery its characters crave.
Based on the first book of Joseph Delaney's The Wardstone Chronicles, it's a film that delivers little more than a craggy world full of slashing, roaring and spittle-spewing beasties as it parades through a mishmash of dark fantasy tropes. Spells are cast. Dragons rage. Humans are impaled. Witches burn. Discerning families shift uneasily in their seats.