Created by: Joseph Delaney (novel)
Directed by: Sergey Bodrov
Written by: Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight, Matt Greenberg
Produced by: Basil Iwanyk, Thomas Tull, Lionel Wigram
Other cast: Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Antje Traue, Olivia Williams, Kit Harington
Release date: 17 December 2014 (France); 6 February 2015 (USA)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Running time: 1h 42min
When Mother Malkin, the queen of evil witches, escapes the pit she was imprisoned in by professional monster hunter Spook decades ago and kills his apprentice, he recruits young Tom, the seventh son of the seventh son, to help him.
Synopsis (Warning: contains spoilers!)
The evil witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) is imprisoned in a chamber by the town’s Spook (fighter of evil creatures and spirits), Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges). After much time has passed, Malkin morphs into her beastly form and breaks free from her confinement in anticipation of the Red Moon.
Gregory’s apprentice Billy Bradley (Kit Harington) finds Gregory in a tavern. The bells have rung to summon Gregory for help. Billy calls upon him, but the man refuses to leave. Another man attempts to make Gregory go out and help, but Gregory fights the man and takes him down without spilling his drink. Gregory then follows Billy to the home of a small girl that appears to be possessed. Gregory confronts the child and hears her speak in a demonic voice, letting him know that Malkin has come back and is ready to face him again.
Gregory and Billy go to find Malkin and confront her. The witch shows herself and taunts Gregory. She turns into a beast again, and Billy latches onto her. He and Gregory try and trap Malkin. They get her into a cage, but Billy gets caught in there with her. Malkin uses her claws and digs into Billy’s neck, poisoning and killing him. She retreats, and Gregory yells that he will find her.
In a nearby village lives Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) with his sister Cate (Lilah Fitzgerald) and their Mam (Olivia Williams). Tom has visions of spirits and creatures with no idea what they mean. Gregory happens upon them and requests that Tom join him as his new apprentice, for he is the seventh son of a seventh son. Mam allows Tom to go off and train with Gregory, and she leaves him with a stone before he departs.
Malkin returns to her lair to find her sister Bony Lizzie (Antje Traue) burnt badly. Malkin restores Lizzie’s natural beauty and plots to get back at Gregory.
In town, people are gathering around a young woman, Alice (Alicia Vikander), claiming her to be a witch. Tom intervenes and pulls her away from the people at her defense. Alice goes home and we learn that she is Lizzie’s daughter and Malkin’s niece.
Tom stays with Gregory as they will commence his training, along with a troll-like thing named Tusk. At night, Tom wanders from his room and encounters a giant armored creature. He runs from it but Gregory subdues it. Gregory later engages in a duel with Tom, expressing his doubts on the boy and thinking he does not have what it takes to fight against the forces of evil. Tom angrily throws his sword in the direction of Gregory’s head, sort of impressing the Spook. He gives Tom a bit of information on Malkin and her cohorts – her lieutenant is a shapeshifter named Radu (Djimon Hounsou), and she has a large group of demonic minions at her disposal. We briefly see Malkin gathering these creatures together.
Tom comes across Alice again. He learns that she is indeed a witch, but she asserts the fact that not all of them are evil. She adds that only her mother is a witch, and her father was a gypsy.
Gregory is summoned into the city along with Tom to combat a beast that all the men are too afraid to go near. The creature appears as a bear, but is really one of Malkin’s shapeshifting minions. Gregory fights the villain and brings it back to its man form. He has Tom go over to finish him off, but Tom cannot bring himself to do it. Gregory burns the villain alive as Tom walks away.
Alice finds Tom again. She tells him that Gregory was once in love with a witch. Tom questions what else she knows, but they end up kissing and getting cozy together. Tom then has another vision, this time seeing a huge beast, Malkin sinking her claws into Gregory’s throat, and the whole city being consumed in a wave of fire.
Tom returns to find Gregory. He tells her that he was married to a witch, but she was murdered by Malkin, thus sparking his hate-filled vendetta against her and other witches.
On their continuing journeys, the two encounter a giant monster in the woods. Gregory tells Tom to make a run for it. They outrun the creature and jump over a cliff into the river. They get onto the raft with a stranger, but the monster jumps in after them. It grabs Tom as they go down the rapids. Tom stabs the monster in the head right before they go over the falls. The monster dies but Tom survives. Lizzie finds him in her beast form and threatens to kill him until she spots the stone that his mother gave him. Lizzie claims it belongs to Malkin and she flies away.
After Tom reunites with Gregory, he comments on Tom being able to defeat a monster that was thought to be unslayable. He also reveals to Tom that his own mother was a witch, and the stone belonged to Malkin’s clan.
Lizzie returns to Malkin and tells her about the stone. The witches and their minions take on their beast forms and attack the city. Mam gets her daughter to safety before using her witch powers to fight back against the minions. Malkin grabs her and calls her a traitor before killing her.
Alice comes across Tom one more time and steals the stone from him. More of Malkin’s minions led by Radu come and attack Tom and Gregory. Although they fight back, the minions capture Gregory and leave Tom for dead. Tom then has a vision of his mother, who tells him that she was killed by Malkin. She inspires him to fulfill his destiny and defeat her.
The witches gather as Malkin attempts to seduce Gregory into joining forces with her and the clan. Remorseful of her actions, Alice grabs the stone from Malkin and runs away with it, breaking Malkin’s hold on Gregory. The minions attack, but Tom arrives in time and starts to burn them. Radu turns into a dragon and confronts Gregory, while Malkin turns into a beast and flies to kill Alice, with Lizzie turning into a beast and trying to stop her sister. Gregory challenges Radu to fight him as a man, and he ends up killing Radu when he uses Radu’s blade hands on him. Lizzie brings Malkin down to the ground, but Malkin kills Lizzie in front of Alice.
Gregory confronts Malkin in her room as she appears close to death. He conceals a knife, but Malkin grabs him with her claws. Tom arrives and throws a blade at Malkin, killing her. He finishes her off by burning her body.
Tom and Alice part with a kiss. He believes he is set to depart with Gregory, but Gregory tells him he is ready to stay with Tusk and defend the town as the new Spook. Gregory leaves, and the bells start to ring to call upon Tom.
- Barely based on book one of Joseph Delaney’s “The Wardstone chronicles” series, “The Spook’s Apprentice.”
- The books were written by an English writer and are sold in England as ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’ series, but in the US the title was changed as the word spook was deemed offensive.
- The mountain is called Pendle Mountain after Pendle Hill in England. In 1612, twelve people from the area around Pendle Hill were tried for witchcraft. Also, Mother Malkin was most likely named after Malkin Tower, the house where Demdike (one of the witches tried in the Lancashire Witch Trials in 1612) lived. Malkin was local slang for excrement at the time.
- In the book, Thomas is only 13 years old.
- Dianna Agron, Imogen Poots and Felicity Jones tested for the lead role after Jennifer Lawrence dropped out./li>
- Warner Bros. was originally supposed to release the film as part of a long-running partnership with the film’s producer, Legendary Entertainment. Advertising materials were already being made when both parties agreed to end the partnership, and Legendary affiliated with Universal Pictures, which is now distributing the film. This explains why early posters still contain the Warner Bros. logo.
- Initially set to be released in theaters in January of 2014 but due to production delays the film was pushed back to 2015.
- In the book Alice has black hair.
Tom Ward: I wonder what monsters have nightmares about.
Alice: Humans, probably.
Tom Ward: [sniffs a flask and retches] That is disgusting. What does that kill?
Master Gregory: [drinks from the flask] Cowardice.
Alice: [disappears while Tom is looking away] We will meet again…
Alice: To be no good at something bad is good.
Alice: We are not all evil, you know, as your master would have you believe. Some of us are good. Some are bad. And the rest are simply unaware.
Tom Ward: Wrong question. Wrong questions get wrong answers.
Master Gregory: Do you remember all I taught you? Ignore it. The rules, Tom, do not be bound by them. Use them in your own way. Live your own life. Your destiny.
Seventh Son grossed $17.2 million in North America and $93.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $110.6 million.
The film featured in the list of “The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2015” published by screenrant.com. The film posted a gross of $295,000 from the Thursday preview. The film earned an opening day gross of estimated $2,300,000, an estimated $3,000,000 for its second day and $1,801,000 for its third day. The film was a box office bomb, according to Variety the film has a “projected loss of $85 million”, earning only $7,101,000 weekend gross, by playing in 2,875 theaters, with a $2,470 per-theater average and ranking #4.
The film opened in France and Lebanon on December 21, 2014, a month and a half ahead of its North America release, and earned $1.2 million. The following weekend the film added $18.4 million from 24 new markets where it debuted at #1 in Russia, Romania, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Russia opened with $8.6 million while Spain generated $1.2 million.
Seventh Son received negative reviews from film critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 12%, based on 105 reviews, with an average rating of 3.8/10. The site’s consensus reads, “Seventh Son squanders an excellent cast and some strange storyline ingredients, leaving audiences with one disappointingly dull fantasy adventure.” On Metacritic, the film has a score of 30 out of 100, based 32 critics, indicating “generally unfavorable reviews”.
Peter Debruge of Variety gave a negative review criticizing the film’s tired plot, special effects, lack of chemistry, and of the cast’s performances such as that of Bridges’ and Moore’s, and calling the film an “over-designed” and “under-conceived fantasy epic”. The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer writes that it “takes an A-list crew and cast—including Moore sporting a black feather dress and matching eyeliner—and goes nowhere new with it, investing lots in VFX and locations but not enough in an original story anyone cares about”. Los Angeles Times’ Betsey Sharkey said that the movie would “certainly be a contender” for “the worst movie of the year,” she notes, “For acclaimed Russian director Bodrov, this foray into English-language filmmaking is a rare fail. Bodrov certainly knows his way around epics, as his excellent Oscar-nominated films Mongol and Prisoner of the Mountains attest. Seventh comes as a shock. Virtually every performance falls flat, aided no doubt by the vapid dialogue. And Bridges is saddled with an awful accent he never masters.” USA Today’s Claudia Puig says, “The 3-D effects are off-putting: Smoke spills out at the audience, and the camera swooshes high and careens over cliffs. It’s more dizzying than dazzling. Further mucking up the attempts at magical fantasy is a distracting, bombastic musical score and feeble attempts at humor. Seventh Son is thoroughly ill-conceived, a pale imitation of its more adventurous and breathtaking brethren.” The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman gave the movie two out of five stars and explained, “While Seventh Son has trace of Saturday afternoon fun, its unoriginal nature gets the better of it… There are flashes where you think Seventh Son is going to be wise enough to put a spin on the standard script, but by the end it just devolves into another loud, messy CGI brawl. How much more ruined masonry can moviegoers take? A lot, it seems, as this genre seems to be in no danger of going away.”
The New York Daily News’ Joe Neumaier was more complimentary of Moore’s and Bridges’ leading performances. “Saints be praised for whatever strange magic brought Bridges and Moore together for their own little mini–Big Lebowski reunion, whether it was playfulness, paychecks or an open spot on their calendars. Because they save this mediocre medieval fantasy adventure from the ash heap.”
CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave the film an average grade of “B−” on an A+ to F scale.